Pressure + Ink: Intaglio Process

Pressure + Ink: Intaglio Process


Phil: Intaglio processes
are any print making process where the image area is
below the flat surface of your printing matrix or plate. Within intaglio, there are
several different types of processes. One of those is the dry point. What dry point is is a
direct scratching or moving of the material on the plate. If I were to take one
of our etching tools, in this case a steel scribe,
and scratch the surface of this plate, that
scratch will raise a burr, where the metal was then
moved from side to side. In dry point, we’re
typically not removing metal, we’re actually moving it
and the burr that is raised from moving that metal holds ink. Where that ink is held
creates a fuzzy line, which is the characteristic
line for a dry point. In working with a roulette, now that I have my composition
laid out with basic lines, I’m going to use the roulette
to start to add some tone in. This roulette is offset dots. The purpose of all of the
different types of marks that I’m using is to
create different textures and varying tones, so that the composition that I’m working with doesn’t feel flat by something being made
from all of the same type of mark. Steel facing increases the
strength of the surface of the plate, which is extremely important for things like dry point
where you have a delicate and fragile burr that’s
raised up above the plate. This will help the plate remain strong so that none of the burrs
break during printing. Many of the same tools
that we use for dry point are also used for etching. Etching involves several steps. The first step is to prepare the plate, which involves polishing and cleaning, so that there are no marks
or scratches on the surface that could interfere with
the artist’s drawing. The second step would be applying a ground to the plate. Hard ground is typically
made from asphaltum, wax, and rosin. It acts as an acid resist,
protecting the white or non-image areas of the etching plate. Preparing that ground so
that it is dark enough to see the copper showing through wherever the ground has
been scratched away. To smoke the plate, the
plate is held upside down, so that the ground can be
heated and absorb the soot. Once a plate has been
prepared with a ground, the surface is a jet black. Drawing a plate involves
scratching away the ground so that copper is revealed. This is different than dry point. Dry point’s scratching of
the plate is to create a burr or to move metal. In this case, we’re actually
only barely scratching the surface, just to remove the ground. Wherever copper is showing
through that black ground, it will be etched or eaten
away to create a trough for ink to sit in. The copper lines become the
image that will be printed onto paper. The third step in etching
is etching the plate. This is a process of eating away all of the bare copper
areas showing on the plate, deep into recesses that will hold ink. The plate is etched for 15
minutes, then it is pulled out and rinsed and replaced back in the bath for an additional 15 minutes
to create a fine, even, black line. Once the plate has been etched, the ground has been removed, and the plate has been
cleaned, it is now prepared for printing. All intaglio processes are
printed in the same format. Printing involves wiping the
plate with ink to force ink into the recesses of the
plate, utilizing tarlatan to remove excess ink
from the raised surface or upper surfaces of
the plate, and finally, a small amount of hand wiping
and cleaning of the edges so that all of the white areas
of the plate remain white. A small amount of chalk
on the fingers will remove any residue ink from the
edges and non-image areas of the plate. Once the plate has been
wiped, it is set on the press. A dampened sheet of paper
is laid on top and it is run through the press with
felts at high pressure. Artists like intaglio processes because it’s a very
sculptural way of working. That sculptural process of
manipulating a metal surface is evident in the final
print with raised ink and embossed edges.

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