Puente Nuevo de Ronda – soft ground etching

I thought that it would be nice to start this blog with a brief explanation of one aspect of printmaking.

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The terms Intaglio means that the ‘image’ is incised, engraved, or etched into a substrate — normally a metal plate. Etching creates an image below the surface of the plate by using acid to ‘bite’ into the metal, eroding its surface. The technique of etching metal with acid was first used in the decoration of the arms and armour of Mediaeval kings and princes. The Wallace Collection, London has some fine examples.

The depth and character of penetration of the surface is controlled by protecting the areas of the plate you do not want etched by using ‘grounds’ of wax or varnish. The examples in the slideshow use the technique ‘soft ground’ where the plate is covered in a soft wax which is imprinted into by drawing through a sheet of paper placed on top of wax-coated metal plate. Also, in this case, I added stippling, before immersing the plate in acid. Note that the drawing is done in reverse.

It also uses a technique called spit-bite where the plate is not immersed but the acid is applied directly to the plate in controlled areas. The term spit-bite originates from the era when printers used spit to control the flow of acid over the plate. I also used the scraper burnisher to refine this image.

The acid bites into any unprotected areas of metal and forms indentations in the plate. Ink is spread onto the plate and pushed down into these indentations with a squeegee. The plate is then selectively wiped with an open-textured tarlatan cloth to remove ink from the plate’s surface. It may be given a final polish with tissue paper or the side of the hand.

When wiping is complete, the plate is placed on the press bed with a sheet of dampened cotton fibre paper placed over it. After running through the press, the damp print is lifted from the plate, inspected and, wrapped in tissue paper, dried between two boards to keep it flat.

Guided by this proof, the artist will make adjustments to the plate. This can be done by ‘stopping- out’ areas with varnish before further immersion in acid and/or scraping and burnishing with a tool. At each adjustment, the artist will take a proof until satisfied with the plate.

This final version will be labelled BAT (Bon à Tirer) which means ‘good to print’. This will be the example to follow for an edition of prints. Although the editioned prints will be similar, they will not be identical because each print will be inked, wiped and printed by hand. Thus each and every print will be a unique work of art.

Here is the final version (Stage 6).


Puente Nuevo de Ronda        ©Henry Hagger

See Gallery.

All images on this website are copyright material.

Reproducing, copying or using them in any form, including electronic media, without the permission of the artist is an infringement of copyright.

All artwork ©Henry Hagger

©Henry Hagger 2018

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