Intaglio Printing

This technique is the opposite of relief printing as whatever is to be printed is cut into the surface, which then holds the ink.

The raised areas then have the ink removed before pressure is applied to dampened paper forcing it into the cuts below the surface of the printing plate to pick up the ink.

Here I have used a thin aluminium plate but any other metal could be used, traditionally copper, zinc or magnesium however, even acetate sheets or coated papers produce some amazing prints using this similar method.

The lines to be printed are then cut, scratched or etched into the surface. Generally steel cutting tools called burin are used to engrave into the plate and here I’m using an etching needle for my print of some favourite words from author John Muir.

Ink is then applied to the plate and rubbed off. There are a few different techniques in the intaglio process but here I’m using a very simple and basic drypoint method. Another technique involves a process using acid to corrode the metal plates and does require more specific equipment and safety procedures which larger art studios can accomodate, but which my humble space cannot.

Many variations can be achieved when removing the ink. Here I’ve mainly rubbed the ink off the words leaving them in an oval shape. I’m pretty happy with the final print. I wanted the fuzzy effect of rough edges on the letters too and achieved this with the ink being able to fill in the burrs. These occur when the metal edges are ‘thrown up’ and the ink can settle in them. So when I engraved the words, I went over them a couple of times to get that result. It also meant I had to be a little careful not to remove too much ink so the words could actually be read, as seen by the difference between them at the top and the bottom of the print.

Next print I may try for consistency but quite like the uneven effect of this one.

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