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”)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Timeline of Art History

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Timeline of Art History

Travel around the world through art with this museums collection of over 6,000 works of art, from Egypt to North A… [read review or visit site]

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 Signed Martin Lewis Social Realist Manhattan New York Drypoint EtchingAntique Pencil Signed Luigi Lucioni Vermont New England Weathered Barn EtchingJames Swann Night In Chicago Original Pencil Signed Etching, Print Rare 1940Lot Of 148 Original Lithos Etching Picasso Chagall Miro Dali Mourlot SignedAntique Authentic William Lionel Wyllie Etching Print, Fishermen On Beach, NrOriginal Luigi Kasimir Colr EtchingAntique Authentic Kerr Eby Pencil Signed Etching, White Tail Deer Landscape NrOriginal Marguerite Kirmse Pencil Signed Etching "the Debutante"Leticia Tarrago Mariposa Original Mexican Folk Art Surrealist Color Etching RareCharles Bragg Original Hand Signed & #'d Kitten In Window Etching No ReserveBoris O'klein Original Dirty Dogs Of Paris Etching Pencil Signed Print 1930sOrig Vintage Salvador Dali Flying Pegasus Surrealism Etching Print Nr Signed YqzSalvador Dali Signed #d Etching Song Of Songs - Beloved Looks Forth Like A RoeOrig Vintage Salvador Dali Noble Legendary El Cid Etching Print Nr Signed YqzEtching By Ryohei Tanaka, "the Big Tree #3", 1986, Framed With CertificateSlightly Damaged Sale! Guillaume Azoulay, Limited Edition Etching, DejeunerOriginal Marguerite Kirmse Pencil Signed Etching "the Burning Question"Original Louis Icart EtchingChurchill Ettinger Tam Rock Run Fishing Print Signed 23/100Antique 19thc Axel H. Haig Stockholm Sweden Seaport Boat Harbor Etching PrintBob Timberlake "another World" Original Etching Signed, Numbered W/inscriptionOne Of The Best Frank Benson Waterfowl Etchings , "water Lilies", 19191598 Wendel Dietterlin Baroque Iron Etching Folio Title Work Diligence VitalityLuigi Kasimir - Original Colored Etching, Street Scene Vienna Opera, Signed Luigi Lucioni Aaa Etching, "whites & Shadows" / Plus 1948 Lucioni Aaa BookletOld Etching Signed Andy Warhol In Pencil - Pink Marilyn1598 Wendel Dietterlin Superb Original Decorative Portal Iron Etching FolioL'age De Soleil: Pour Roby, Pablo Picasso EtchingSlightly Damaged Sale! Theo Tobiasse, Carborundum Etching, Fleur Pour MardocheeSlightly Damaged Sale! Paolo Boni, Limited Edition Etching GraphicsculptureVtg Modernist Italian Listed Artist Paolo Boni Intaligo Etching Signed NumberedListed Churchill Ettinger Detailed Dog Portrait Original Signed Etching No Res.Salvador Dali Tristan Et Iseult Signed Roman Numerals On Japon Etching Litho Nr!Lynn Shaler Original Etching Signed Newmark Gallery 1984Rare Antique Etching Print By Hedley Fitton-john Knox's House-edenburg, Scotland1598 Wendel Dietterlin Superb Original Decorative Gate Iron Etching Folio1598 Wendel Dietterlin Superb Original Heraldic Iron Etching Folio - StagsSlightly Damaged Sale! Theo Tobiasse, Original Carborundum Etching, VioloncelleVtg Modernism Italian Listed Artist Paolo Boni Intaligo Etching Signed NumberedJoseph Demarais 1927-1971 Mid Century Modern Abstract Etching Print Listed Susan Hunt-wulkowicz Hand Colored Etching " Williams Road - Summer" 257/300Old Etching Signed Andy Warhol In Pencil - CokeAlfred Rudolph Original Signed Limited Edition Etching “dervishes Of The Desert"Antique Vintage Napoleon Bonaparte Oak Framed Etching Print Over-painting 12x17"Carol Collette, Original Hand-colored Etching, "september I" Ltd Edition, SignedSlightly Damaged Sale! Paolo Boni, Limited Edition Etching GraphicsculpturePablo Picasso 1881-1973 Spain, Pencil Signed Original Etching 'spring' Original Nude Proof Stipple Etching By Francesco Bartolozzi 1800's"jupiter" Nude, Ex Libris Etching By Roman Sustov, Belarus 93 Of 100 SignedKurt Meyer-eberhardt Persian Cat Original Etching Print Rare Signed Kitty RareFrank T. Gee Brown Trout Etching, Signed, Artist Proof, Matted And Framed. Pablo Picasso Etching Signed In Pencil ,original Rare 1 Of 12 Nr Escultor Y ModeWwi Etching Lester G Hornby Massachussets Camouflaged Auto Shelter Framed/mattedLouis Icart - Color Etchings With Aquatint - Signed In PencilNancy Nemec Intaglio Etching - "sour Grapes..." - 308/350 - C. 1978Vintage Original Paris Eiffel Tower Etching Vtg Cubist Italian Listed Artist Paolo Boni Intaligo Etching Signed NumberedH.y. Alken Etched Aquatint Framed, Matted Print/etching End Of The HuntVtg Original F. Bartolozzi (1728-1815) Etching / Engraving Portrait Print C.1764Rembrandt Etching Print 19thc Collotype Take Out Of Frame