SoPossibly the most complicated and time consuming
of the print making techniques.
The aqua of the name is slightly misleading, in that it does
not refer to water but probably
to aquafortis which is nitric acid, for the prints are acid-etched
and not as they
are sometimes referred to as 'aquatint engravings'. The introduction
of this technique
was an attempt to emulate the soft tones of a watercolour, for which
they are sometimes mistaken.
Antique Aquatint Prints Technique
Introduced to Britain by P.P. Burdett
in 1771 aquatints were initially used to produce naval,
military and sporting
subjects. A copper plate is covered with a powdered resin which is
fused by heat,
the plate is then immersed in acid which is repelled by the resin
but which bites the spaces
in between forming a granular texture. In 'biting' the plate the light
areas were treated first and then
the plate was removed from the acid bath, washed in water and the area
remain light (i.e. the sky) was stopped out with acid resistant varnish.
The aquatinter worked from light to dark, the final biting being the
darkest areas of the print.
The tonal quality was revealed at the printing stage, with the lightly
areas carrying small amounts of ink,while the deeply bitten areas
carried larger ink deposits and printed darker.
The printing commenced with the cleaning of the plate, which was then
inked with a roller.
The surplus ink was removed leaving the remaining ink in the acid
cut line or groove, a piece of lightly
dampened paper was placed on the plate and then both were fed through
a hand operated roller and
the ink was absorbed onto the paper.
This magnified image of an aquatint
illustrates the finished 'granular' texture.
Antique aquatint prints - technique explained.
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