Intaglio Printing Step by Step Walk-through / Tutorial

Had my first full day down at Spike Print today, its great to finally start editioning prints after all the testing. I thought it’d be fun to post up the technique I am developing to render my Dry Point Etchings from Life Class. I’m determined to come up with something that no-one else is doing at the moment so I’ve been experimenting a lot with this method. Each print is individually hand-worked using the Artist Proof as a guide, so there is some variation from print to print. It takes a good half an hour from start to finish so its doubly gutting if it fails. By all means post comments if you have any questions about what I’m doing and I’ll be happy to answer.

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Step 1: Warm the dry point etching on a hot plate. This heats the metal so that the printing ink becomes more viscous when it is applied and seeps in the marks more easily.

Step 2: Ink the plate evenly from all directions using a scrap of mount board until the entire surface is covered with flat even tone.

Click to read on…

Step 3: Not too little, not too much. The plate is now ready to be worked.

Step 4: Using lengths of pre-soaked and dried Scrim (its soaked in water to soften the material) first twist the ink into the lines using a circular motion, then using a cleaner piece begin to slowly remove ink from the plate until you have a thin, textured covering where you can see just enough of the image for the next step. The key here is to leave enough ink on the plate for a good dark tone.

Step 5: Using a cotton bud, remove the ink from the body of the image. The trick here is to imagine a light source and work in the highlights

Step 6: Once the outlines are picked out, use a fine cloth to remove the rest of the ink from the subjects body leaving a very thin layer. Then clean off the most highlighted sections with the cotton bud once more to give a good greyscale where possible. (I’ve not included a pic of the cloth as inky hands and digi-cams don’t make good bed fellows…)

Step 7: The plate prepared and ready for print with all the tools needed for that part of the process. The photo doesn’t adequately show the definition in tone, but the highlighted areas are totally free from ink whereas the cross-hatched areas are left with some tone.

Step 8: Whilst you prepare the paper, place the plate back on the hot surface so that the ink is nice and viscous for printing

Step 9: Pop the Somerset Satin Soft White cotton rag paper in the water bath. It only needs to soak for a minute as the good quality paper very quickly takes on enough water.

Step 10: This bit always raises a smile :D Remove the paper from the water bath and place it on the flat acrylic surface on the wall (it sticks), then squeedgie out the water like you’re cleaning a window! Just a couple of strokes as it easily damages the paper.

Step 11: Remove the excess water between two sheets of blotting paper

Step 12: Whilst the paper dries slightly, transfer the inked plate on to the press, using a sheet of newsprint to stop excess ink manking up the bed. Today I am using ‘Benji’. The handle is like a giant ships wheel…

Step 13: Place the damp paper over the plate as close to center as possible and cover with a piece of tissue paper to prevent any ink over spill, then carefully lower the 3 print blankets over the lot – thinnest at the bottom to thickest at the top. (We’re assuming here that the correct pressure has already been set up on the press beforehand)

Step 14: Once you have wound the lot through the Benji mangle, carefully remove the tissue paper

Step 15: …ready for the big reveal – has it worked? oooh, exciting!

Step 16: There we have a finished image, printed in reverse from the original.

Step 17: You can see that all of the ink has transferred from the plate to the paper.

Step 18: A close up of the final article and slightly wider to see the whole sheet

Step 19: Lastly, place under a heavy board to dry flat with a sheet of tissue paper over the top to protect the surface of the print.

Step 20: repeat!

Phew. I hope that gives you a good idea of what goes into producing a single print. When I collect the images in a couple of days I’ll post up all of the pics from the edition to show the variation you get between prints using this technique. Til next time…

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