My etchings are prints made from a thin, polished copper plate in which marks or grooves are created by chemical erosion of the metal. These grooves hold ink, which is transferred to paper in the printing process.
On the copper, which I carefully bevel, polish, and clean, an acid-resistant coating (the ground) is applied. Using a needle-like stylus, I draw through the ground, exposing, while not scratching into, the shiny surface.
When the plate is submerged in a chemical bath (ferric chloride), every mark that I made interacts with the solution, while parts covered by the ground are not affected.
The chemical reaction* causes each exposed line on the copper to become eroded (etched) into a groove.
Ink is applied to the plate, and wiped off the surface, leaving ink in each groove or depression in the metal.
On the press, a dampened piece of paper (usually fine, mold-made, and cotton-based) is placed on top of the inked plate, and, with protective blankets of wool felt on top, is squeezed (pulled) under high pressure between solid steel rollers.
The pressure forces the paper down into the grooves, and the ink is transferred to the paper.
The resultant print is called an etching, and because each print must be individually inked and printed, no two are exactly alike, so each one is considered an original print.
Another way of making ink-bearing lines in the copper is by scratching directly into the metal with a sharp steel or diamond point, without using a chemical bath. This process is called, appropriately, drypoint. Sometimes I use drypoint to enhance an etched plate.
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