In the previous post I said that the prints featured were etchings. Oops! This one, of pawpaws, is what we call a “dry-point.”
In etching, the ink lines on the metal plate are made by drawing through an acid-resistant coating and immersing the metal plate in a mordant solution, usually nitric acid.*
But without access to acid (or other etching solutions) it is still possible to produce intaglio prints by simply scratching your desired image onto the metal with a needle of some sort.
“pawpaws” was drawn onto a zinc plate with a fine-pointed etching needle, a 3″ nail and, if I recall correctly, a little “scuffing” with a suede brush! That’s a brush made of spiky brass bristles, not soft suede leather! Some of you are probably old enough to remember having suede shoes, (blue or otherwise!), which you brushed, to bring up the nap!
Once drawn, the dry-point plates are inked and printed in the same way as etched plates. What? You want me to tell you about that, too? OK…
For this small plate I spooned maybe a teaspoonful of printing ink onto my glass slab and spread it a little. Then, using a very expensive piece of printmaking equipment (this is not a cheap hobby!)…
…I scooped a line of ink and scraped it across the plate in first one direction, then another, making sure I pushed ink down into the etched lines. Satisfied I’d done that, I wiped of the excess ink (erm..not very well, in this print!) with a bit of scrim, then polished off the last of the ink using a piece of fine newsprint, in this case, an old phone directory page, torn into pieces about the size of the plate.
It’s important at this stage to keep your “polishing” hand as flat as possible so that you don’t push the newsprint into the inked lines.
Satisfied that you’ve removed enough (all) of the surface ink, lay your printing paper, slightly dampened and blotted, on the plate and run it through the press.
What pressure? Absolutely no idea! I and many others do this by trial and error. After a while, especially if you are using the same press regularly, you get a feel for it. All presses can be adjusted and some have calibration guides, but generally the first pull is a test to see how well it prints.
This is also true for relief printing.
*There is a move away from the use of the more harmful chemicals and techniques are being perfected which use much safer solutions and cleaning methods. If you’re interested, this is a very good link http://www.nontoxicprint.com/thegreenprintstudio.htm