Etchings are made by transferring the ink in an image cut into a metal “plate” onto paper under extreme pressure. You can spot an etched print because there is a pressure mark on the paper, around the image. Etching is a time-consuming and skilful process and usually etchings are printed in limited editions – I only do editions up to a maximum of ten (and often as little as five) because it takes so long and because the image on the plate can start to degrade.


Until recently I used copper for etching because I liked its colour and softness and because I could use a fairly benign acid – ferric chloride – to “bite” into the copper in order to make marks. Now I use aluminium as an etching plate. It is much quicker to work with and is also much safer and “greener” as one does not use any toxic solvents or mordants

I create images using a combination of methods. For example, I generally use a lithograph crayon to make marks on the metal plate and then cover it with a “resist” layer of varnish. The crayon can then be rubbed off under the varnish exposing the metal that will be “bitten” by the mordant (Copper sulphate) while the varnish protects the rest of the plate. I also use acid painting and dipping to create marks and sometimes use a metal needle or burnisher to make lines.


A thin layer of printing ink is applied to the metal plate. Surplus ink can then be gently removed from the surface of the plate with a coarse muslin called “scrim”. However, some ink will be trapped below the surface of the metal in the marks and textured areas “bitten” by the mordant.

The plate – image side up – is then placed on the bed of the etching press with a piece of damp printing paper over it. Blankets are then placed over the paper and the whole “sandwich” rolled between the two heavy metal rollers of the etching press. This pressure will transfer the ink in the plate onto the paper. If two plates are being used to make a print, the process should be repeated so that the second image will be superimposed on the first.