Demo Reference Notes



Stylus: The stylus is a pencil shaped, sometimes twisted, steel drawing tool. The stylus is pointed at both ends, and either side can be used to incise the plate or scratch through a hard ground.
Scraper: The scrapper tool is used to remove metal in many techniques.
Burnisher: The burnishing tool is used to flatten and polish burrs that are created when the plate is physically affected by drawing tools or acids. The burnishing process is always used when putting the final polish on the edges of the plate. Since it is the metal burr that holds the ink, by burnishing the plate the burrs are smoothed out and less ink will cling therefore printing lighter values.

Copper Plate Preparation:

Bevel the Edges of Plate: Always scrape, file, and burnish the edges of the plate so that each edge is beveled downward before printing. Important!!!!! Failure to complete this step may cause damage to the press and blankets.
Make Back of Plate Acid Resistant: Use non-metallic spray paint only!! Cover the entire surface of one side of the plate using spray booth with ventilation. Since acid is caustic and it will attack any non-protected areas of the copper plate, and with extended exposure to copper the acid begins to weaken, it is best to fully coat the reverse side. This step will assure the longevity of the acid and protect your plate for further use.
Cleaning Copper Plate: For minimal or consistent plate tone use a metal polish (Brasso) to clean the copper side of the plate before beginning work on the surface. This will remove excess oils, gums, and light tarnish. Often the polish itself leaves a slight film on the plate. This can be removed with soap and water, and then alcohol is used for the final rinse.
Removing unwanted oxidation: Often green in color oxidation is the result of insufficient rinsing. Plates should be thoroughly rinsed after removal from the acid bath. If green or otherwise oxidized, soak plate in vinegar for 20-30 minutes to remove oxidation. In some cases extreme oxidation occurs and plates need to be soaked for 2-3 hours.

Demo Areas: * italicized areas will require supplemental information not included in this demo reference
Dry point
Metal engraving
Hard ground
Soft ground
Soap ground
Sugar lift

Dry Point Technique

Dry Point Needle: Made to fit in ones hand like a pencil, the dry point needle needs only to be harder than the surface it marks. Carbide tipped tools, hardened dental tools, and even diamond or sapphire tipped tools make common dry point needles.
Dry Point Process: Probably the most direct intaglio processmaking a dry point drawing involves physically pressing the needle into the plate. This action does not actually remove material, but rather creates a ‘hill and valley’ texture on the plate, thus creating two places for ink to be trapped. Although not entirely foolproof, copper is most commonly used for dry point because it is soft and fine grained. Only steel-facing can keep copper from losing detail throughout the course of an edition. –Note dry point work does not need to be etched!!!


Hard Ground Technique

Hard Ground: 6 parts Asphaltum/ 2 parts Lithotine/ 1 part Burnt Plate Oil

Hard Ground Process: Pour Hard Ground mixture onto plate, enough to cover the whole plate with a thin layer. Pour off excess to leave a thin transparent coat. Let rest first vertically for several minutes then horizontally until the ground is consistent.
Curing Hard Ground: Once the layer of hard ground is level take the plate to the propane torch station and place the plate on the metal shelf. Turn on the propane torch and ignite. Adjust the flame so that its small blue cone measures approximately 1”. Heat the entire underside of the plate slowly until the hard ground begins to evaporate in small wisps of smoke. Stop heating the hard ground when it begins to take on a matt texture. If over heated the hard ground will become extremely hard and may take many hours of work to remove. Do not overheat!!!!! Also do not let the flame come in contact with the plate’s outside edges, as this will ignite the solvent. If this happens and the plate is small enough, you may be able to blow out the flame, but if not just let it burn itself out. After the plate is cured let it cool and then begin drawing.

Graphite Transfer for Hard Ground: Use a 3-6b soft graphite pencil for the drawing that will be transferred. Place drawing face down against the Hard Ground and then run through Intaglio press with less-than-printing-pressure to transfer image to the Hard Ground. –Note the transferred image will be reversed. Minerals spirits is used to remove hard ground.

Aquatint Technique

Rosin: The amber collected from conifer trees, cured and ground into a fine powder. This fine powder melts when it is heated.
Rosin Box: Used to disperse rosin powder in a safe and controlled manner. –Note do not breath in Rosin powder always wear a dust mask.

Rosin Aquatint Process: Clean the plate of any extra oils and residue. Open rosin box and using a brush wipe down the insides freeing any powder that may be stuck to the walls of the box. Crank the rosin box pedal then place the plate with a piece of newsprint that is slightly larger that the plate on the rack inside the rosin box. Wait ten minutes or more for the powder to settle onto the plate. Remove carefully any sudden movements will cause the powder to move and disrupt the evenness of the layer.
Adhering Rosin to the Plate: Take the plate to the propane torch station and gently lay it on the metal grate. Light the torch reducing the gas until the flame is a small blue cone measuring about 1”. Heat the underside of the plate slowly until the rosin begins to congeal into small beads. The rosin will change its appearance from a pollen-like powder to something more reminiscent of honey. After the plate cools and the surface is transformed and covered with tiny amber beads it can be etched in acid for up to two hours depending on the strength of the acid. The process must be repeated for darkest tones. Alcohol is used to remove rosin

Spray Paint: Another option for creating an aquatint ground is applying a fine mist of spray paint. Spray paint can be difficult to apply as it is often inadvertently applied in too thick of a layer. Test the spray can before applying to the plate and make sure that the paint comes out of the can in a strong finely atomized spray. Spray from a distance of 18 inches and pass over the vertically standing plate evenly and quickly. Closely inspect the surface of the plate with a loupe or other magnification to assure that the copper is not entirely covered. Pay no attention to the value range of the paint, instead look to see where the paint is and where it isn’t. This may need to be repeated several times before the plate is ready. Acetone is used to remove sprat paint.

Soft Ground Technique

Soft Ground: 1 Part Tallow or Machine Grease / 3 Parts Hard Ground

Soft Ground Application: Apply the soft ground with a stick to the intaglio plate while it is being warmed on a heated surface. Be sure to cover the whole plate, and then even the ground by rolling the designated soft ground roller over it once. During the stick application allow an aluminum litho plate with a soft ground font rolled out on it to warm up. When these two steps are complete remove the intaglio plate from the heated surface and place it on a room temperature surface. Before the intaglio plate cools entirely rollout the soft ground using the heated ground on the aluminum plate to stick to the cooling ground on the intaglio plate. The soft ground will transfer to which ever layer is coolest. Great disparities in the temperatures between the soft ground on the roller and that of it on the plate will cause uneven coating. Repeat this process until even, and the desired thickness is achieved. Reheating the intaglio plate after the ground has been applied will help to even the surface.
Soft Ground Drawing: Lay an absorbent (not newsprint) piece of paper over the soft ground and trace or draw directly on the paper. By drawing through the paper in this manner the soft ground will adhere to the paper thus exposing the copper in the areas where the drawing occurred. Once the plate is submerged in the acid bath the exposed areas will be etched.
Soft Ground Texture Transfer: Soft Ground should be applied in a thick and even layer over the surface of the plate. Place thin textured items, flat cloth, or pliable materials on the soft ground layer and then cover the plate with wax paper and blankets. Set pressure accordingly using less-than-printing-pressure, and run the plate through the press.  Due to the pressure the textures squish through the soft ground to the plate. Remove the wax paper and textured items. The plate is now ready to be etched.

Intaglio Inks & Modifiers

Ink: A pigment and vehicle mixture ideally ‘short’ and buttery. This ink can dry quickly and when not in use it should be closed in a can or stored in plastic.
Setswell: An ink additive used to make ink more ‘short’. Added in small quantities this modifier makes wiping a plate easier.
Burnt Plate Oil: This is a modifier and the original vehicle already present in the ink from the can. It consists of cooked and ignited linseed oil; cooked in this manner in order to increase its viscosity and allow a quick drying time.
Ink Mixture Add a small dab of Setswell to reduce the tack and make the ink easier to wipe. Add a small amount of plate oil to the mixture blending all three ingredients together until there is a unified consistency and proper viscosity. Plate oil adds plate tone, therefore less plate oil less plate tone. Different ink modifications are required depending the way the plate was made.

Ink Application and Wiping the Intaglio Plate
1) If the Plate is small apply ink with your fingertip or fingertips, spreading/massaging the ink over the entire plate. Be sure to push the ink into all of the recessed areas and from every direction. If the plate is large apply ink with stiff paper card or rollout with a brayer.

2) After plate is covered with ink, blot the inky surface of the plate with newsprint twice.

3) Tarlatan: The tarlatan is an open weave starched cheesecloth.  Crumple the tarlatan to make it softer and more pliable. Proceed to wipe the plate with the tarlatan removing more ink from the surface—all the while further pushing the ink into the recesses of the plate.

4) After wiping the plate with the tarlatan begin wiping the plate again with newsprint. This time laying the paper over the ink surface and gently gliding the paper over the ink softly lifting a little more ink from the surface only.

5) The final wiping is done with the hand. Pressure should be light, and the plate wiped in quick even strokes—paying close attention to removing marks left by the paper wiping. Be sure to wipe clean the edges of the plate with cloth or paper towel before bringing to the press.

Intaglio Paper and Printing Blanket Preparation before for Printing

Paper: Arches 88 is a smooth surface printing paper, not recommended for soaking. Instead spray the printing paper using a bottle filled with water, and then blot the printing paper to remove excess moisture. The paper is ready to print when there is no longer a wet sheen on the paper surface and it is damp all the way through.

Paper has two sides, a screen side and a felt side, and it is recommended to consult the paper manufacture for recommendations as to which side of the paper is flatter or performs better. If the piece of paper being printed has a watermark, then the front of the paper should be used. The front side of the paper is the side in which the watermark can be read correctly.

Printing Blankets: Stagger blankets on the press bed from bottom to top in the following order:

1) Sizing Catcher: 1st and thinnest blanket; it is used closest to the plate. This blanket is used to protect the cushion blanket from being damaged by excess sizing released from the printing paper. –Note newsprint is also used here as a backing paper that is placed over the printing paper. This is done to prevent ink from seeping through the printing paper and staining the press blankets. (Sizing Catcher)

2) Cushion: 2nd and thickest blanket; it is used to push the printing paper down into the recesses of the plate.

3) Pusher: 3rd and most durable blanket; it is used to protect the cushion from the friction of the roller.

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