Etching: line and shape figure

Using one of the line and shape figures I recently drew I  created a new print design, then worked on some simplified and stylised flowers.


This experimentation involves using sugar paste to create a printing surface on a zinc plate.   The studio had no  sugar paste and mixing dissolved sugar with pottery slip (kindly donated by the adjoining studio – see right) didn’t form a  sticky enough mixture to use successfully.

For those wanting to use this method a trip to the supermarket to find liquid chicory essence is worth the effort.  It’s cheap, readily available, and very syrupy.  Perfect for this type of etching.

Using an old ragged paint brush with the chicory essence I painted my base design onto the zinc.  When dry, the plate was flooded with diluted bitumen and, again, left to dry.  Once placed into a tray and covered with very hot water the sugar paste dissolved lifting the bitumen off the plate.  Where there was no paste, only bitumen, it created a resist on the surface of the zinc plate.

Above left: gently wiping the plate to help the sugar release from the surface in the hot water.  Right: the remaining bitumen resist (obviously the dark sections) where the plate will not etch when it is in the acid bath.

The next part is laborious but effective in creating a tonal range when etching.

  1. Aquatint was lightly applied to the plate surface and heat set.
  2. The plate was placed in acid for 20 seconds for an initial etching, then rinsed.
  3. More bitumen was applied over the zinc in selected areas to create a further resist.
  4. The plate was etched for a further 20 seconds, then rinsed.
  5. Still more bitumen was painted onto the surface, blocking out more areas from etching.
  6. The plate was acid etched for a further 40 seconds, then rinsed.
  7. The plate was cleaned with meths, removing the bitumen, ready for printing.

Above top from left: plate with aquatint, plate after first etching with more bitumen added, plate after second etching with more bitumen added.  Bottom: acid bath and working samples.


  1. A hard ground (wax) was rolled onto the surface of the warm plate and allowed to cool and harden.
  2. The design was traced onto the surface and an etching tool used to draw through the wax.
  3. The plate was etched in the acid bath and cleaned ready for use.

Above from left: applied hard ground with traced design, drawn design, finished etched plate ready for printing.

Single proof plates:

First print run:

Left: Cream Stonehenge 250gsm  Right: Pale brown Stonehenge 250gsm.
Both prints: base plate sepia + black, figure & flora plate pthalo blue + black.

Second print run:

Left: Creamy yellow Stonehenge 250gsm  Right: White Stonehenge 250gsm.
Both prints: base plate pthalo blue + a touch of black and 50% extender, figure & flora plate black. Roll-over 20% blue + 80% extender.

Overall, great outcomes.  Some plate slippage when going through the press so alignment is out by 2mm – will try to rectify this in the coming week with new prints.  My preference is the prints without the roll-over (first print run).

About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, My prints and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Etching: line and shape figure

  1. Pingback: Etching: line and shape figure – final prints | TactualTextiles

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