Etching is an intaglio printing technique where an image is created on a copper or zinc plate that is covered with etching ground. To make the surface as smooth as possible the plate is polished with sandpaper and/or a polishing agent. In line etching the front of the plate is covered with etching ground. The back of the plate is also covered with tape or a varnish to protect it while in the acid bath.

Maker drawing with an etching needle

The image is made by drawing into the etching ground, effectively scraping away the material. Then the plate goes into an acid bath so that the exposed drawing is “bitten” out of the plate. The etching ground is removed. A layer of ink is applied and rubbed into the grooves. The removal of excess ink is done with tarlatan (gauze), newsprint and/or by hand. Printing is done on damp paper. This way the paper fits better into the grooves while under the press which results in the ink being better absorbed.

In addition to line etching there are also other etching techniques: Aquatint and vernis mou (soft etching ground) are commonly used techniques. The aquatint is a picturesque etching technique in which grayscale is created by burning a fine resin powder onto the plate. During the etching process parts of the plate are covered before being placed into the acid to achieve different tones. The printing process is similar for all etching techniques.

With the drypoint technique you draw directly on a sheet of metal or PVC. This is not an actual etching technique because no acid is used. Therefore this technique does not create grooves but “burrs”. It is actually an intaglio technique that is printed like an etching.

In our workshop we provide materials such as zinc etching plates (copper is not in stock as standard), PVC for drypoint, Brasso/copper polish, tarlatan, etching ground, tape and various acids, inks and papers.

Prior to your project, discuss the timeline with one of our advisors.

Time indications

One simple line etching can be done in half a day. The more complex the design, size and technique, the more time it will take to complete.

Cutting, polishing and preparing plate
Drawing design
Removing ground, applying ink, removing excess ink, printing

We would love to meet you, to see what we can do for you and your project. If we can help you, we will discuss your process further.

Make us meet

To see the up-to-date prices for the use of our workshop, please download the price lists. Prices for materials can be requested at the workshop.