artist draws with a needle on to a copper, zinc or steel plate
that has been covered with an acid resistant wax. When the plate
is immersed in acid (solution of nitric acid, also known as aqua
fortis and water), the bare metal, exposed by the lines of
the drawing, is eroded. The depth of the `etch is controlled
by the amount of time the acid is allowed to `bite the metal.
The longer in acid, the deeper the line and the darker it will
acid resistant wax
order to obtain a print, a viscous greasy ink is pushed into the
etched grooves, then the surface is wiped clean with muslin, leaving
only the etched areas retaining ink. The actual impression is
made with a copper plate press which is similar to an old washing
mangle with a large plank or `bed between the rollers. The
plate is placed on the bed, covered with dampened paper and backed
with three or four felt blankets.
are then passed through the press under high pressure, the malleable
paper is forced into the cuts and ridges in the plate and thus
picks up the ink. When the paper is finally peeled off, it reveals
a faithful mirror image of the etched drawing. This inking procedure
is then repeated for each print.
the etching is complete a limited number of prints are made. Then
using a pencil the artist signs each print with the title, a signature
and a fraction showing its position in the edition. For example
25/100 is the twenty fifth print out of an edition of one hundred.
The artist is also allowed to make an extra 10% for personal use.
Therefore, in an edition of one hundred, one hundred and ten prints
are made. The extra ten are marked A/P (artists proof) instead
of the fraction. They are valued above numbered prints by collectors
because of their association with the artist.
the plate is cancelled by scratching a line through the image.
A print made from a scratched plate is called a cancellation
print. It ensures that further prints cannot be made and
the numbered impression can be trusted.
prints are images made by the artist from beginning to end directly
in or on the plate, stone, wood block & other matrix. Each
print is a work of art, one of a limited edition and signed by
the artist. The photo mechanical reproduction of paintings and
drawings are often described as Fine Art Prints but
this term is misleading as they are not works of art, even if
they have an artists signature.