2022, the year I learnt photoetching

Thanks to a small grant from a-n, Time, Space Money, I was able to develop my photo etching skills. I had always steered clear of light-based intaglio/relief as too complicated, too many variables and beyond my ken.

However, coming out of lockdown I wanted to explore photoetching for a few reasons:

  • don’t need much additional equipment
  • just a UV lightbox or dependable source of UV light
  • I could take it into photopolymer relief (or solarplate) once I had developed the intaglio
  • Expand offer of print studio
  • Support artists who want to use photoetching
  • Sheer curiosity

The grant allowed me to go to the University of Cumbria for two days and then to Green Door Studios in Derby for a two-day 1:1 photo etching course with the wonderful Pandora.

These are the prints and plates I made at the University of Cumbria:

While this was fine for high-contrast line images, I wanted to develop tonal images and for that I needed more expert help!

The course at Green Door enabled me to work with more precision. Here’s the original image:


Final print:

We used an aquatint screen and an aquatint ground to create tone. The photopolymer film was also much finer and trickier to handle but got more depth and definition.

When I got back to Cumbria, I did more experimentation and then did a skillshare with Studio members. This is not a formal course (thank goodness!) but it allowed me to work alongside fellow printmakers to try things out for ourselves.

The results were patchy, but then we didn’t have the full setup with the UV lightbox, vacuum beds and aquatint booths.

But people were smiling!

I also experimented with solar plates to create a strong relief plate with half-tone. Here’s the plate, and print:

I’m particularly interested in the solar plate/photopolymer as it’s easier to handle and you don’t need to mess around with film. The only problem is the expense, but the hardness of the plate means that you can use it for either relief or intaglio.

January, 2023