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Acrylic hard ground prints

 I'm continuing my exploration of non-toxic printmaking, looking for ways to achieve the sorts of marks you get via traditional intaglio etching but without using the chemicals, acids, and so on. Below are two proofs of a print I made as follows:

Take an old steel plate, 5" x 7".

Coat it with three layers of an acrylic hard ground, consisting of 90% GAC 200 acrylic varnish and 10% black airbrush pigment. Wait for one layer to dry completely between coatings.

Scratch lines into the dried varnish using a drypoint needle and an etching needle. Some of the lines are very shallow, some of them are very deep.

Ink and wipe as for an intaglio plate. I used a red-black mixture of Akua inks.


The first proof looks like a hard-ground etching. Even the lightest lines held ink and printed well. For the second proof, I added a lot more deep lines, wiped it less, and it came out more like a drypoint. All in all, the experiment was a success.

There are a couple of things that I haven't solved yet. One of them is how to lay the varnish on the plate so that it's flat and smooth, without any ink-trapping ridges or hills. To get the white areas in these proofs, I had to wipe heavily using a lot of newsprint and even Q-tips. Of course, I might also want to have plates that display a lot of texture, so this medium would be great whenever I want that result.

The other thing is that the initial creation of the plate is time consuming, as it can take two full days for the layers of resist to be completely dry. For a more traditional hard ground etching, you could lay down the resist, dry it out, draw into it, etch it, clean off the plate, ink it and proof it in half a day. Nevertheless, this acrylic non-toxic method would be good to use, for example, in a classroom setting.

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