I am currently developing yet more of my cornucopia of forest etchings. Etchings are a type of intaglio print because the image is below the surface of the plate; it is the opposite of the commonly known potato print, which inks & prints that which is raised. Intaglio prints are pulled from a plate that has been incised with the image. If the image lines have been burnt into the plate using acid, it is an etching. (If a tool of force, such as a diamond point, draws in the lines it is a drypoint.) In metal plate aquatint etching, the lights and darks, called “values,” are small dotted pits created by using an acid resist in powder form that is melted on the plate.
Once I have etched the lines and shading, the plate must be proofed in one color (monochromatic) hue, to evaluate the expressive range of values. The metal plate is wiped with printing ink by spreading the ink over the plate, pushing it into the depressions, and hand wiping the excess ink away. Then the image is transferred to a damp rag paper using a roller press and soft blankets to help push the paper into the inked lines and dots. If the proof of the image does not show the desired dynamic range of values, the plate must be re-worked.
When the artist considers the proof expressive, the work of interpretation in color begins. Color in intaglio can be achieved by wiping areas of the print with different hues, registering multiple plates (or at least two, one for warm colors and one for cool colors) hand coloring, or layering colors with different viscosities (oily thickness) on one plate and planning separation through the antagonism of different viscosities.