This is a zinc plate with Frida Kahlo etched on the surface. The edges of the plate were beveled so they wouldn’t cut the paper while going through the press, and the surface of the zinc was sanded with 320, 400 and then 600 sandpaper. This is one of the styles of printing referred to as intaglio. (The word intaglio (intal’yo) is from the Italian word intagliare, to engrave.)
After coating the plate with a waxy ground, I sketched Frida into the wax with an etching needle. The drawing was based on a beautiful photo of Frida taken by Imogen Cunningham. Next, I submerged the plate in acid, which bit into the metal surface exposed by my drawing lines.
This is another etching (“Sure Temptation”) using the same process. My reference drawing is on the left, and the coated plate is on the right.
After removing the ground, I pushed black ink into the etched lines of “Imogen’s Frida”, and wiped the top surface of the plate clean, leaving ink embedded only in the etched lines. I put the inked plate on an etching press, and laid a dampened sheet of cream-colored printmaking paper over it. Felt blankets were placed over the plate and the paper, and this layered sandwich was rolled under steel cylinders on the press with a great deal of pressure (about 1800 lbs).
The pressure of the press pushes the paper into the acid-incised wells on the plate to collect the ink, which transfers the line work to the paper. After one pass under the press, the artist peels the moist paper from the inked plate, (the art prints in reverse) and the freshly pulled print is set aside to dry.
The process of inking and wiping and printing the etching plate begins all over again for the next print in the edition, and this continues till the edition is completed. You’ll see a plate impression on original prints, where the moist paper molded around the entire plate under pressure. The artist signs the work just beneath that plate impression, usually with the title of the art, and the print number, and edition size.This image shows an Artists’ Proof of the etching on BFK Rives Printmaking paper. I matted and framed it for an exhibit coming up. I printed the edition with very light contrast, since I planned to paint most of the prints. The image on the right shows the etching with watercolor washes added.