Etching at Royal Drawing School

Etching at Royal Drawing School

The last year has been particularly though on me. For some various little issues I wasn’t able to keep up with my studies the way I wanted to.

However I kept my passion alive by attending a printmaking course from September to December, at the Royal Drawing School in London. This short course touched 5 different techniques, mainly involving etching: hard and soft ground, aquatint, sugar lift and drypoint.

Here I share some of the works produced during these few lessons.

Soft ground etching on zinc



Drypoint on copper
Drypoint + hardground etching on copper
Sugar lift on aluminium

I was really amazed by the range of results achievable with printmaking and the idea of how many of them are yet to discover, is just the best motivation I could ever find.

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!