Nu Steel Blog

May 27, 2015

Copper + tar + acid + ink = dirty hands and awesome prints

The sixth NuSteel project had students exploring a more advanced and labour-intensive printing process: copper etching. Along with developing their technical skills, the project provided a great opportunity for students to delve into particular artists’ aesthetics, deepening their knowledge of art history, the oeuvre of print, and the concept of style. Youth started by researching the work of various print artists and choosing one whose style they wanted to emulate. After working on some preliminary sketches, studio tech Matt McInnes led youth through the somewhat involved copper etching process.

So what does that process look like, exactly? First, you file the edges and sand the surface of a copper plate, removing any textural imperfections that might interfere with the etching. Then you coat your plate with a tar-like substance called hard ground. You can carve directly into the hard ground, or else use iron oxide to transfer an existing sketch onto the coated plate. After scratching the lines of your image out of the hard ground, you immerse your plate into an acid bath for several hours. This essentially eats away at any copper that hasn’t been covered by hard ground, deepening the grooves etched into the plate. After cleaning the hard ground off of the plate, etchings are ready to be inked and put through the press.

So many beautiful prints were created during this unit, all of which will be available for sale at the next Art Crawl, Friday June 12th. Come get your art collection started!