Notes on Aquatint Technique

An aquatint is made similarly to an etching except tonal areas are produced by having the acid bite the plate in multitudes of tiny irregular dots. Generally about one half the plate retains its original smooth surface. The traditional method for achieving this effect is to dust the plate with powdered rosin. Then the plate is heated so the rosin melts and adheres. Where the minute specks of rosin are the plate is protected from the acid and will print as white dots. Between the rosin particles the acid can attack and eat away the metal. The ink will be retained in the tiny pits produced by the action of the acid. Depending on the amount of time the plate is left in the acid and the density of the rosin particles the plate will print areas from full deep velvety black to very subtle light grays. Corrections and alterations to an aquatint are much like those used for etchings: scraping and burnishing and rebiting. An aquatint plate is quite a bit more delicate than an etching plate and in inking and printing more care must be used in order not to harm the much more fragile surface of the plate. Aquatints can not generally be printed in as large editions as etchings, the plate wearing out quickly.

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Copyright Darrell Madis, 2000