print residency

print residency: i am just back from a wonderful week in Spain, doing a residency in a print studio where i learned hard ground etching. i didn’t have any specific project in mind but brought along some images to work from in order to learn the technique. the technique of etching is a many step process, which i became familiar with over the week so that i was able to work independently. as the process involves a lot of chemicals, i am not sure how suitable it will be for my studio but i would be confident doing it in another equipped print studio. as i kept the etching images simple, it lent itself to adding chine collé. some notes and images of the process…

preparing the image: decide what image you are going to work on. its a good idea to know where you want different shades of lines, as this will help with deciding the timing of acid exposure.

preparing the copperplate: start by course filing the copperplate edges to create bevel edges that won’t cut the paper when pressing. follow by fine filing the edges, sanding and the using an stone tool to smooth the edges.

degreasing the copperplate: rub chalk and water on the copperplate until all grease is removed.

preparing the paper: cut the paper to size, place in a water bath for at least 20 mins. take out of the water and dry by rubbing between 2 sheets of blotting paper. wrap the paper in plastic to keep the paper from drying out too much.

preparing the image: once the image is decided, print the image onto paper to fit on your copperplate. the copy needs to be at a dark contrast so that it can transfer onto the copperplate with rubbing.

transferring the image: place the paper image face down on the copper plate and fix in place on the copper using a pliers. heat the copper plate on an electric ring to 250 degrees. using a cloth, rub the paper photocopy onto the heated copperplate until the image is transferred.

applying the hard ground: let the copperplate cool and when slightly warm, apply the ground using a brush. let the ground cool fully.

etching: using a variety of tools, etch the hard ground using the transferred image below to guide you. you can use stop ink to prevent any lines you made and don’t want from developing. paint stop-ink solution along the edges of the copperplate.

etching development: tape the back of the copperplate, leaving a long piece of tape to act as a handle. place the etched ground plate into the oxidiser, then rinse and then place face-down in the etching chemical bath. time the etching time, according to how think and black you want the line to be on your image.

starting with 10 mins for a light line, 20 mins for a medium line and 40 mins for a darker line. its a good idea to start by short times and then check through a magnifying glass to see how much of the line has developed. if you want more time, place the copperplate back in the etching chemical bath again and time again.

if there are lines you want to leave lighter than others, cover with stop-ink solution using a brush to stop these lines developing darker.

cleaning the copperplate: when happy with the development times, rinse the plate in water and remove the ground from the plate using cleaning chemicals.

registration: on acetate, draw the outline of the paper and the position of the copperplate withing the paper frame. mark the top. turn over and place on the printing press.

inking the plate: using etching ink (black 81), spread ink on the copperplate surface using a plastic spreader. with tulle netting, remove the excess ink, remove ink further using a clean tulle and then greaseproof paper. wipe the edges of the copperplate with a cotton cloth and then use a little chalk to dry the edges.

printing: place the copperplate on the acetate face up, place the paper on top, using the guide lines on the acetate. turning the wheel, print the image.

drying the print: place the print between greaseproof paper, blotting paper and board, with a weight to keep the image flat. repeat the inking and printing process for the edition number.

chine collé: if adding coloured paper – cut or rip according to effect you want. soak or spray the paper depending on how thick the coloured paper is. spray the back of paper with spray glue and place on the inked copperplate, glue side up. place the white paper on top and run through the press as before.

prepare the copperplate
sand the edges
degrease the copperplate
soak the paper
transfer the image
apply the hard ground
etch the hard ground
tape the back
place in etching acid bath
time the development
paint stop-ink where needed
ink the plate after cleaning
remove excess ink
clean with greaseproof paper
dry paper
prepare registration
place copperplate on press
place the paper
run through the press
inspect and allow to dry

reflection: i was very happy with how confident i became in this printing process over the course of the week. i began to see how many factors in the process would effect the outcome of the print – etching exposure, type of line etched, amount of ink cleaned off etc. as i kept my image to simple lines, chin collé worked very well with them and added new dynamics to the image. while i worked on images i brought with me, in future i think it might be worth gathering new source images that respond to the new place i find myself in. all in, a fantastic experience.

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