Limerick Printmakers winter box set 201520150124_155045

Copper plate etching

img401I had never done a copper plate etching before, nor had I used nitric acid to bite the plate… As a way of getting members in and using the workshop in the new premises Limerick Printmakers gave out a copper plate (already coated with hard ground!), provided paper and asked for editions of 25 to be produced.

The image I chose to work with comes from one of my current projects – “Who put Bella in the wych elm?” (not yet online!). It is drawn from a pencil drawing I made of an archaeological find, one which came up on a google search for images of crouch burials.

Having not done an etching in several years I was excited by the prospect. A group of us all met up on a Saturday and had a lovely social afternoon, img402drawing, biting plates and proofing.

Etching in nitric acid was a new experience. Once in the acid bath bubbles begin to form on the surface of the plate and it starts to turn green – this means it is working. There was some trouble at first as the temperature in the workshop is very cold so the bath had to be heated by adding boiling water. Every few minutes one must wipe over the surface of the plate using a feather to brush away the residue that builds up as the acid dissolves the copper.

I was surprised at how fine the lines came out. The first proof was a little light for my liking – I wanted the background to be darker, it looked a little like a loosely woven fabric so I started to work back into the plate using a scalpel blade to draw fine lines. This would also create quite a soft black limg403ine as the raised edges would catch and hold the ink. It took one more intermediate proof before I got it to the point where I was happy to do the full run. I made 28 prints in total, allowing a margin for error of 3.

The contrast of the fine but hard edged etch lines and the soft furry drypoint lines work quite well together in this plate. I am definitely smitten by etching on copper!


Creating the winter edition was a lovely way to get people together in the workshop. It has been really nice to come in and find the place busy, sharing ideas, techniques and thoughts on process with fellow printmakers. I can’t wait to see what the full box set looks like!!!