Etching

Artists from Rembrandt to Picasso have used etching to create some of their most famous works. Etching has often been combined with other intaglio techniques such as engraving or aquatint.

The process uses nitric acid to etch (or “bite”) an image into a metal plate. The plate is first coated in a waxy varnish resistant to acid. The artist then draws their image onto the plate with a sharp needle called an échoppe, creating swelling lines that expose areas of the metal. The whole plate is immersed in acid until the artist’s lines are “bitten” enough to create grooves – the longer the plate is submerged, the deeper the grooves. Ink is then rolled over the surface of the plate and wiped away with organza cloth or newsprint, so that only the sunken lines are filled with colour. Damp paper is placed over the plate and run through a press, forcing the ink from metal to paper, revealing the image.

Etching produces fine lines that can range from short and scratchy to elongated and graceful; artists harness this versatility to produce varying effects, from delicate and sensitive to frenzied and powerful.

Aquatint is a variant of etching. Like etching, aquatint uses the application of a mordant to etch into the metal plate. Where the engraving technique uses a needle to make lines that print color, aquatint uses powdered rosinto create a tonal effect. The rosin is acid resistant and typically adhered to the plate by controlled heating. The tonal variation is controlled by the level of mordant exposure over large areas, and thus the image is shaped by large sections at a time.

Weng Contemporary Etching

Available Etching