Although the word “etching” is commonly used to describe any print produced using intaglio printing methods, there are actually several types of etching techniques, each of which produces a different effect. Over the centuries, artists from Rembrandt to Picasso have employed various etching techniques to completely different ends.

Traditional etchings, which resemble pen-and-ink drawings and date to the 16th century, are produced by coating a sheet of copper with a wax mixture known as a ground. After the artist scraps away the ground with an etching needle, the sheet is placed in an acid bath. The acid cuts into, or bites, the exposed areas, leaving the copper below the ground untouched. The ground is then removed from the plate while is then exposed to ink, filling the crevices created by the acid. Finally, when the plate is pressed against a sheet of paper, the ink is transferred.

Soft-ground etchings are a more recent technique, dating to the mid-to-late 1700s. As with an etching, a plate and ground is employed, but the wax used in soft-ground etchings is, well, softer, allowing it to be lifted from the plate by pressure from a textured surface or the marks of a writing instrument over a sheet of paper that has been laid upon the ground. The resulting bite of the subsequent acid bath is thus more uneven, suggesting the irregular markings of a crayon.

Lift-ground etchings are a variation on the aquatint. Before a ground is laid down upon the plate, the artist paints or draws his or her desired image onto the plate with a mixture that includes ink and sugar. After the image dries, the plate is coated with a ground, which is eventually bathed in warm water. Because the ground is porous, the water seeps into the ink-and-sugar mixture, which expands, thus exposing the plate. A porous aquatint ground is then use to coat the exposed areas so that when the plate is finally exposed to the acid, the result is a soft, almost watercolor-like effect.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

London Transport Museum Posters

London Transport Museum Posters

A must-see collection of 5,000 vivid, colorful British posters from the early 1900s onward. Browse by artist (over … [read review or visit site]

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

USSR Posters

USSR Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset showcasing almost 1500 Soviet propaganda, advertising, theatre and movie posters from 1… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Pencil Signed Luigi Kasimir Colored Etching Print, Hamburg Germany1923 G Maillard Kesslere Photographic Etching Art Nouveau Maidens With CataloguePencil Signed Bernard Buffet France Coastal Landscape L/e Etching Rdr Listed NrSigned George Reson Ce Que C'est Pratique Children Peeing Etching Rdr Listed NrMax Papart Vintage Abstract Modernism Expressionism Nonobjective Signed EtchingSam Francis EtchingAnnette Robyns (b.1914) Listed Mid Century Modern Abstract Expressionism EtchingTomohide Kameyama Japanese Surrealism Cactus Flower Abstract Signed EtchingAntique Early 20thc Eugene Higgins American Social Realism Etching Print, NrTanna Kasimir-hoernes Orig. Detailed Fountain Gate Signed Color Etching No Res.Annette Robyns (b.1914) California Vintage Mid Century Abstract Modern EtchingMagda Santonastasio Vintage Abstract Modern Cubism Expressionism Etching SignedSigned Sir Frank Brangwyn Nyc Park Flasher Hand Colored Etching Nr Gmt ListedRare Hawaii Artist Shirley Hasenyager Etching "mauka Wai" - Fresh Estate Find!Salvador Dali Signed Print From Song Of Songs Etching With Gold Bertrand Dorny Abstract & Geometric Signed & #'d Aquatint Etching No ReserveLuigi Kasimir Vintage Architectural Church Figures Trees Signed EtchingVintage Mid Century Modernist Figures Pencil Signed Etching Mystery Artist 1/30Vtg 1975 Gene Kloss Etching Blessings On San Felipe Day Intaglio Print Signed #dJames A.m. Whistler Etching Rotherhithe Signed In Plate Dated 1860 10.75"x7.7/8"Tanna Kasimir-hoernes Original Detailed Gateway Signed Color Etching No ReserveCalifornia Coast With Cypress Trees, Color Aquatint Etching, Signed, 1920'sAntique Amand Durand After Rembrandt Etching Landscape With Square Tower Nr YqzMax Pavant Vintage Abstract Modernism Expressionism Nonobjective Signed EtchingLong's Peak-east Face Etching, Lyman Byxbe Listed Artist1962 Pitseolak Ashoona Inuit Art Etching Print Fishing Scene Eskimo HuntersAssadour Bezdikian Original Hand Colored Etching Signed Le With PlateSalvador Dali The Dovelike Eyes Signed Print From Song Of Songs Etching - Gold Warrington Colescott Wisconsin 1951 Woodlot Bicycles Modernist Drypoint EtchingRare Original Signed Guillaume Azoulay Etching "deux Bisons" L/e 55/300 - NrFine Art Sale! Theo Tobiasse, Original Etching, Jovie Et Le Soleil ImmobileAnnette Robyns California Vintage Artist Proof Mountain Expressionism EtchingLyman Bixbe Pencil Drawing/etching/print-estes Park- Signed- FramedIrving Amen Listed Vintage Age Of Aquarius Mother Child Modernism Signed Etching99p Start Alison Neville Etching "luxor Temple" Limited EditionAnnette Robyns Listed California Vintage Abstract Entity Modernist Etching 1/25Antique 1850 Orig French Jean Bein Etching After Titian Madonna & Child Nr YqzCharles Bragg Original Flower Vender Etching Limited And SignedStefano Della Bella -flight Into Egypt - Original Old Master EtchingOriginal Signed Guillaume Azoulay Etching "preakness" L/e 167/300 Never FramedFrancesco Bartolozzi After Guercino - EtchingSalvador Dali Academie Des Beaux Arts Etching,1971,signed E.aJohn Mcnulty "river Bank" Etching/aquatint Limited Edition S/d In PencilFine Art Sale! Linda Lloyd, Original Etching, Rascals, SignedCharles Bragg Original Etching "and He Saw" Signed And Numbered 38/150 5"x7"Lewin 1800 Antique Hand Coloured Bird Print Tarrock GullLewin 1800 Antique Hand Coloured Bird Print Arctic GullRembrandt Etching B90 Good Samaritan Framed Original Durand 1870 IncredibleKathe Kollwitz Etching "gesenkter Frauenkopf" Woman With Bowed Head Becke StampMarc Chagall "the Wolf And The Swan" Rare Early Signed Etching 1930 W Coa FramedCharles Bragg Limited Edition Signed Etching UrologistSarah Rishel Intaglio Botanical Etching Signed 187/200 Fruit & Geraniums FramedAfter Le Sueur, (etching) 1765, Charles Rogers, Basire, 'moses Exposed'B52 Histoire Naurelle Sd. Benard Direxit 1780 Engraving Etching Tiger Shark P7Lewin 1800 Antique Hand Coloured Bird Print Skua GullBarbara Spitz Large Artist Proof Abstract Expressionist Serigraph No ReserveFrancisco Goya, Nadie Se Conoce - #6, Etching - Los Caprichos - Retail $3,000German Dominican George Hausdorf Landscape Print ExpressionismAntique C. 1900 Victor Valery Art Etching Reims Cathedral French Hand-signed Ailsa Kennedy Ltd Ed Aquatint Etching "drinkstowe Mill, Suffolk" 1980