Carving Copper



This week for printmaking class, we are carving into copper plates. The carving process for this plate is completely different than plexiglas! For plexiglas if you remember, I just carved directly onto the surface. Copper is a five step process. First, I cleaned off my plate with whiting (a white powder). I put about a third of a cup onto the plate and then drizzle a little water over it. I wipe the whiting around with a rag, until the whole plate is a salmon color. After this is done, I wash it off with water and dry the plate. Next I apply hard ground tothe plate, this is a black liquid that resists acid. I painted two thick layers over the plate, and then put it on a hot plate for about five minutes to dry. After the hard ground is dry, I can begin etching. This surface is much easier to etch into than plexiglas, I think because it is much softer. Once my image was carved out, I put it in an acid bath for about 40 minutes (the longerit is left in, the darker the marks will be). This bath actually carves out the image that I etched. Once the time’s up, I wash my plate thoroughly and use mineral spirits to remove the hard ground, and then I print just like I printed the plexiglas!

I like this process a lot, we were given the guideline that we had to repeat the process that I just described three times. This was interesting to see the print progress as I put more engravings into it.

processI loved this process, and I’m really proud of the piece that I created during my first copper experience. I may go in and carve a bit more in the mountains, but for now I feel confident that the piece is finished. 10502190_10152855741139221_7317177394746145617_n

Printing On a Plexiglass Plate


image1 (1)About a month ago, I began my first printmaking course. In high school I printed on linoleum which is a eraser like material, and I used carving tools to create an image. I then rolled ink over the linoleum and used it like a stamp, creating as many images as I wanted. This class is a much different process. The assignment we had was to fill a 9×12 plexiglass plate with line work. The process was not too hard, I carved my image into the plate which took about an hour. I then did a test run- called an Artist Proof. This was my first print that I took to see what more I needed to carve out of my plate. The physical activity of pulling a print is a very interesting process. First and foremost, I cut my nice printmaking paper down to the right size and place it in a water bath for about an hour. Next, I bevel the edges of my plate (I sand them so they are flat, and won’t damage the printing press). Next, I cover the plate with a layer of black printing ink. We use a small piece of cardboard to spread the paint around and make sure it covers the plate entirely. After the ink it on, I use a ink-saturated tarlatan rag to pull some ink off of the blank areas, and push it into the grooves that I created by carving into the plate. After I’m finished with the saturated rag, I use a somewhat clean tarlatan rag. This pulls all the rest of the ink off the plate that I don’t want, if there’s too much ink my print will come out far too dark. After my plate is ready to print, I pull my paper out of the bath and dry it off with towels and rollers.  Photo of a Printing Press I put my plate, face up on the press and I carefully place the paper over it. I then put down two felt blankets that are attached to the press, and I’m ready to go!image1

The printing press is a large metal object with a big wheel that you turn to make a roller roll over your print. The pressure of the roller over the paper on your plate, makes the ink transfer the image onto the paper.


Printmaking is a medium that I’ve wanted to get into for a very long time. As you can see, the presses are very large and expensive, this really is a medium that you need assistance and instruction. We are currently working on a copper plate which is a completely different process, one ill discuss in my next post 🙂