Photo Etching

There are many steps in order to create a photo etching print. I haven’t realized how long and complicated the process is. To create few prints from one zinc plate I have spent the whole day. But what a day!

Here are the vague instructions of how to create a photo etching:

You will need a zinc plate (although there are different ones you can use i.e. made of copper). It can be used 200-300 times; copper plate 500-600 times. Prepare the image, you will need a digital positive of it.


Remove the foil from the plate and file it so there are no sharp edges, you can finish it off by using a scraper. De-grease the plate with a mix of water, ammonia and whiting powder, wash it off, dry with a clean cloth and and place in front of a fan.

Cover your plate with UV light sensitive emulsion with a roller, leaving a thin layer, and leave it to dry for about 30 to 45 min in the heat and more for 15 min to cool down.

When has cooled and dried put clear acetate over it and the digital positive (shiny side up) put in an UV exposure unit  for 30 sec and expose for 350 units. Take it carefully out and detach the digital positive.  Place the plate with the remaining clear acetate in a mix of water and sodium carbonate and wash it off gently with the sponge for about 2 min. Wash it under warm water, dry with a clean cloth and leave it to dry (best in front of a fan)


Dust the plate with rosin in the aquatint box then fix it to the plate by heating the zinc plate, so the  aquatint rosin sticks to the plate. It is the hardest part of the process. Let it  cool down and put in an acid bath of diluted nitric acid  1:16 for ten minutes, wash it in water and afterwards remove the aquatint with meth (don’t rub it too hard)


printing etching plate video

I’ve been using oil based etching ink with some extender base to make colours more transparent. First you want to make a test with a dark colour, (applying yellow  – optional) and then black ink with a card in a smooth strokes. Use tarlatan-scrim (starched coarse material) to push the  ink to the dot structure created by the aquatint in a circular motion by pressing hard then wipe gently with another scrim and use the clean one at the end to wipe the blue  areas. For testing you can use watercolour paper but for your final print printing paper such as Somerset is better.


Tissue paper on the bed

Plate on – side up

Printing paper on top

Tissue paper

Press Blankets


Leave print to dry and enjoy the effect!

If you have managed to get so far with your reading let me know if that is helpful and/ or interesting? What do you think?

Photo credit of process: Meuang Max Thamat


~ by mona on May 27, 2013.

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