Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique used to create tonal areas in an etching. It’s particularly valued for its ability to produce areas of color or tonal gradation that resemble watercolor or wash drawings. Here’s how it’s typically done:

  1. Preparing the Plate: The first step in creating an aquatint is to prepare a metal plate, traditionally made of copper. The plate is coated with a fine, acid-resistant powder called rosin. The rosin is heated until it melts and adheres to the plate in a fine, granular pattern. This pattern will create the textured areas of the print.
  2. Etching the Plate: The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which etches away the areas of the plate not protected by the rosin. The longer the plate is left in the acid, the deeper the etch will be. The areas covered by the rosin will resist the acid and remain unetched, creating a textured surface.
  3. Removing the Rosin: After etching, the plate is removed from the acid bath, and the rosin is removed by heating the plate. This leaves behind a plate with areas of varying depth, depending on how long they were exposed to the acid.
  4. Inking the Plate: To print the image, ink is applied to the entire surface of the plate. The ink is worked into the textured areas created by the aquatint process.
  5. Wiping the Plate: Excess ink is carefully wiped off the surface of the plate, leaving ink only in the etched areas. This process requires skill and precision to ensure that the ink remains only in the textured areas.
  6. Printing: The plate is then placed on a printing press, and damp paper is laid over it. The plate and paper are run through the press under pressure, transferring the ink from the plate to the paper. The resulting print will show the tonal areas created by the aquatint process, with darker areas where the etching is deeper and lighter areas where it is shallower.

Aquatint allows for a wide range of tonal values and textures in printmaking, making it a versatile technique for artists to explore. It’s often used in combination with other intaglio techniques, such as etching and drypoint, to create richly detailed and expressive prints.

Many people read our art newsletter ; you should too!