Thursday, October 11, 2012

Intaglio Printmaking

I didn't really know what intaglio was before starting this course, screenprinting was full so it was either this or lithography for a printmaking choice for the semester, it's been fun and interesting so far.
The basic process is to cut a thin sheet of copper to a desired size that functions as the plate or matrix that will be used to produce prints, bevel the edges with a file and polish the plate with steel wool, degrease the plate, apply contact paper to the back, coat the plate in a "ground" which is usually like a kind of wax that has to be melted on a hot plate, though it can also a liquid or another process altogether, like an ink solution applied by airbrush. Once the wax ground is dried, it can be etched into with markmaking tools, then given an acid bath (we use ferric chloride rather than an actual acid at school), which corrodes into the metal exposed by the drawn lines, providing a negative surface for ink to adhere into. There are also various cleaning steps that need to be carefully observed, as well as the use of solvent-resistant gloves and a respirator mask.

Etching a design into the wax hardground covering a copper plate

After the marks have been made and the ground/resist material removed, the plate is given a vinegar bath and the paper cut and soaked in water to increase its absorbency (I think?). Then the messy stuff begins; ink is selected and mixed with various modifiers and manipulated until it reaches the desired consistency.

Inking workspace
Ink is applied to the plate with a putty spreader and pushed around so that it fully saturates the depressions, then excess is removed with scrapers, newsprint, starchy material called tarlatan and the surface dusted with a light brushing of talc, the plate must be inked and wiped for every print so it can be a fairly long process, not to mention cleanup if you make as much of a mess as I did.

Pulling theoretically identical prints from one matrix on Rives BFK paper

Ink is transferred to paper by way of a massive printing press, a template is used to properly align the plate and paper which is especially important when the project calls for multiple passes or if several plates are being used. This project was just one plate and simple linework etching techniques, this week I've been learning about alternative methods like aquatint, mezzotint and lifts which are generally used to produce tonal, textural effects, the next project will be much more complex.

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