Printmaking: Aquatint

Printmaking: Aquatint

The last session at the print studio was focused on aquatint.

This is an awesome process, where after cleaning, the plate is dusted with powdered rosin. The plate is then warmed, allowing the dust to melt, leaving the surface dotted with micro drops of acid resistant material.The metal is backed with packing tape before going into the acid bath for as long as we want our result to be dark.

In my experiment, I used a plate previously etched with hard ground. I saved some areas before applying the powder, using a methyl based varnish, as I wanted to keep them smooth. The first immersion lasted only thirty seconds.After that I covered a larger area with the varnish and continued to etch the rest of the plate for about 6 minutes in total. Once done that, the plate was cleaned and I started printing out.

I was really disappointed by my first print, in fact I thought I messed up everything as the image was barely readable!

But then under the tutor’s advice, I start working on the plate with various instruments to bring out the image as I wanted. I mostly used a burnisher, some steel wool and a pointed tool. I kept printing to see where my retouching was working and only after four prints I started to see what I wanted.

It was quite hard and I felt discouraged in the beginning, but in the end I think the mistakes made me learn much more than the smoother experiences I had in the previous days.

Here my prints, from the first one on top left to the fourth on bottom right:


And the last one, still not perfect (also due to an inking mess!) but much clearer:


Exercise: Your own work

Exercise: Your own work

This exercise asked to revise my own work and select the images containing elements I like, watching them from a pure aesthetic point of view.

I went through the images created responding to the various briefs and selected some of them:

Then, I went on trying to create a brochure using InDesign for the first time. I thought it is an awesome software and it is really fun to explore the infinite possibilities it offers.

I shaped the brochure basing it on the card I prepared for the first assignment and I inserted the images and a brief text just to experiment how ideally a brochure of my works could look like. I thought it probably lacks in showing a certain style, due to both personal experience in developing one and also to the nature of the briefs the images have been created for. Being so different, they produced very different outcomes and I still cannot identify myself like having a consistent style.

However I did identify my style in one of the images in particular, the crab, that is why I placed it in the front page of the brochure.


I printed out the little brochure (7×10 cm when folded) to realise how it worked and I have to say that I was surprised as I really like the outcome!

Printmaking: Soft ground etching

Printmaking: Soft ground etching

Following the same principle of the hard ground technique, the soft ground process it is quite different. Soft ground is in fact a different wax where the resin is replaced by oil, making it obviously more sensitive and malleable at room temperature.

The first steps prior to drawing, have been to prepare a board with some pieces of cardboard to hold the plate firm once we applied the soft ground and to back the plate with tape, to protect it from corrosion. In this way, once the plate was rolled up with the oily wax, we didn’t have to handle it to much, spoiling the even layer of soft ground.

After that, a piece of tissue paper was placed on top of the plate and secured with tape. This is the surface where the drawing is made with any medium we would normally use for drawing, like pastels, charcoal, pencils and so on.

I used a normal pencil and draw a little platypus, from a picture I found online long ago.

Once finished, I removed the tissue paper from the surface, in this way lifting the soft ground where I made marks, therefore uncovering the metal.

Right after that, I left the plate in the saline sulphate bath for about 10 minutes.

I then washed the plate with a delicate spray, just in case I needed to keep the wax on to etch the plate further.

I checked how the acid worked my marks with the tutor and we decided it was ok to print!

So I cleaned up the plate, inked it and finally pressed it.


I am so impressed with the result, probably because I really didn’t expect it.

I have to admit, I was not so attracted by this technique in the first place, but I definitely changed my mind while having a go at it! I particularly loved the freedom this technique allows in making marks.

I really enjoyed the process and even more the outcome!



Printmaking: Hard ground etching

Printmaking: Hard ground etching

At the end of the first printmaking session we have been given a zinc plate covered with hard ground. This is a mixture of beeswax, bitumen and resin which protects the metal from acid corrosion.

I had in fact, to produce a drawing scratching away the wax to expose the metal, allowing in this way the acid to work its way through the lines .

I bathed the plate in acid for about 5 minutes and then rinsed it in water. after drying it up, I checked that the lines were properly etched and the passed to the usual inking and pressing.

The result was a print with extremely crisp lines which I really enjoyed!

I managed to do in total four trials, visible in the image below from the first on the top left to the last on the bottom right.


At the end of the printing phase the tutor also taught me how to prepare the plate with a layer of hard ground.

I am literally falling in love with printmaking!

Life drawing again: Fifth lesson

Life drawing again: Fifth lesson

In the fifth life drawing session the tutor has changed. I felt this as a way to challenge myself more, because having a different tutor means to have a different point of view on drawing. In fact she invited me to try and draw having a bigger distance between the paper and my eyes, forcing the arm to be almost straight and allowing more freedom to the lines traced in that way. She also invited me to produce a charcoal drawing to have an even more free kind of approach.

I don’t have experience with charcoal and I found it was really difficult to give a clear result rather than just a messy black cloud. After this experience I can confirm that I certainly don’t fancy charcoal, because of its extremely volatile nature, but it was nice and really useful to challenge myself with a new medium and I think I will try that again next time.

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