Etching

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Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal (the original process—in modern manufacturing other chemicals may be used on other types of material). As an intaglio method of printmaking it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains widely used today.

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Basic method

In pure etching, a metal (usually copper, zinc or steel) plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid.[1] The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle[2] where he wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The échoppe, a tool with a slanted oval section, is also used for "swelling" lines.[3] The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for "biting") or etchant, or has acid washed over it.[4] The acid "bites" into the metal, where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over, and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines.

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