Since this is blog about my life (if you haven’t realised that yet, you do now), I decided to write about one of the printmaking processes we covered in college.

Mindy Lighthipe Line drawing intaglio of Lighthipe’s iguana, Father Mulcahy. You really should see her website-http://www.mindylighthipe.com/

Intaglio (/ɪnˈtæli./ in-TAL-ee-oh) covers a group of printing and printmaking techniques, where the image is incised (carved) into the surface of the plate, those carved lines then hold the ink.

Normally, copper or zinc plates are used as a surface or matrix, The incisions are created by engraving, etching, aquatint, drypoint, mezzotint and collographs (although those are created by adding to the surface).

The text that you want to be printed has to be reversed, the image doesn’t.

Intaglio plate that I created on a silver card.
Intaglio plate that I created on a silver card.
Otto Dix, ‘Storm troopers advancing under a gas attack’ From the portfolio War 1924, etching, aquatint, drypoint, 19.4 × 29 cm

In the intaglio printing (also called etching), the plate is covered in a resin ground or an acid-resistant wax material. Using an etching needle, or a similar tool (I used a pen, scissors and scalpel), the image is engraved into the ground of the plate, revealing it underneath. The plate is then dipped into acid. The acid bites into the surface of the plate where it was exposed, meaning that the incision is created.  After the plate is sufficiently bitten, the plate is removed from the acid bath, and the ground is removed to prepare for the next step in printing, inking.

To print an intaglio plate, the ink is applied to the surface by wiping and/or dabbing the plate to push the ink into the bitten grooves. We used cardboard to apply the ink and tissue paper to wipe it;s excess off. That was a hard job.

The final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old public phone book pages, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top of the plate, so that when going through the press the damp paper will be able to be squeezed into the plate’s ink-filled grooves. The paper and plate are then covered by a thick blanket to ensure even pressure when going through the rolling press. The rolling press applies very high pressure through the blanket to push the paper into the grooves on the plate. The blanket is then lifted, revealing the paper and printed image.

The finished intaglio print
One of my finished intaglio prints. Two soldiers buying apples (details from a photograph at Imperial War Museum North)

So yeah, this is intaglio. At least one of the possible prints.

See ya!

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