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    

Doel Reed Signed Etching C1930 "reclining Nude"Original Keiko Minami Listed Japanese Artist Color Aquatint Etching Signed, #dShoichi Hasegawa (b.1929) Japan Vintage Abstract Modernist Large Etching Signed Mid Century Irving Amen Signed Artist Proof "sara" Linocut Color Portrait YqzMax Ernst Ltd Edt Etching Print Pencil Signed Hand Coloring Coa "la Cloche"Shepard Fairey Commanda Mural, 2013 Print S/#'d Xxx/389 Obey Hilger Etching Vintage Signed Modernist Etching Print, Gula Gluttony Deadly Sin Female NudeSigned Al Hirschfeld Numbered Ltd Edition Tom Selleck Caricature Etching(11) 1800s Etching Engraving Hand Tinted Insects Reptiles Amphibians Crabs YqzKaethe Kathe Kollwitz Restrike Etching "by The Church Wall" Von Der Becke's Ed.Elizabeth O'neill Verner (1883-1979), Small Framed Print, In Old CharlestonRoberto Matta Limited Edition Etching Print Pencil Signed "pouffer D'amour" CoaBernard Buffet Limited Edition Etching Print Pencil Signed Frog Grenouille ToadKathe Kollwitz Etching - No ReserveRembrandt Boat On A Canal 19th Century Etching Framed B236 Durand No ReserveRembrant B21 Rembrandt Leaning On A Stone Sill Etching Original Durand 1870s Pencil Signed Luigi Lucioni 1936 Etching "lake Through The Locusts" No Reserve!A+ Vintage Listed Artist Signed Orig Etching "weathered Barns" By Luigi LucioniJean-louis Arbaretaz (b.1942) Vintage Abstract Modernist Landscape 32" EtchingJorge Dumas (b.1928) Well Listed Vintage 32" Cubism Modern Figure Etching SignedRembrandt Beggars B131 Etching Framed Antique No Reserve 1800s Antique Rembrandt Pouting Man 1880's Antique Etching Framed B308Rembrandt B61 19th Century Madonna And Child In The Clouds Framed EtchingEx Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Konstantin KalinovichAntique Giovanni Battista Piranesi Etching Architectural Capriccio Ruins 3 Of 3Antique 1884 Mary Nimmo Moran Gardiner's Bay, Long Island Etching Orig. FrameSalvador Dali Vintage "velazquez" Spanish Immortals Etching W/ New York CoaAntique Giovanni Battista Piranesi Etching Architectural Capriccio Ruins 1 Of 3 Emil Jean Kosa, Sr Listed California Artist Verdugo Woodlands Arts And CraftsEx Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Jurij JakovenkoEdith Roddy Listed Antique Vintage Market Day St. Thomas Caribbean EtchingHans Kleiber Early Etching Silver Dollar Saloon Sheridan Wyoming C. 1935 Framed Max Klinger: Original Etching / Aquatint: "allegorie"Rembrandt 1800s Etching Teacher Coppenol B283 Framed Antique No Reserve SharpHendrik Goltzius, After - Tantalus, From The Four Disgraced OnesSalvador Dali Don Quixote Original Etching W/ Coa Stamp Frame Collectors Guild1900-1920 Vintage Original F. Luis Mora Etching "fishing Well" - Signed -nice!Original 1968 Pablo Picasso, Series 347 Etching, (bloch 1699) Signed No Reserve!Josef Eidenberger Etching, Monument Valley UtahErotic Non Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Olag Gropp Free GraphicVintage Ron Morano Metal Engraved Etching " Venice, Italy" Framed Sue Coe Original Signed Etching Rives Paper Art Limited Small Bear Roadside ZooRembrandt Ledikant Signed 19th Century Etching Risque B186 Framed Antique 1809 J. Marchant Brighthelmstone England Map English Channel Old EtchingRembrandt Joseph's False Death 1880's Framed Signed Etching Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Konstantin KalinovichErotic Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Günther HujberMax Pollak - Etching Of A Small Terrier (yorkshire?) Dog - Pencil SignedErotic Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Hedwig PauwelsEx Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Kalina KralevaErotic Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Hedwig PauwelsEx Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Gennady Vial18th Century French Etching Tableau Des Portraits A La Mode Hand Colored PrintRembrandt Pharisees In The Temple Etching Framed No ReserveMid Century 1978 Don Magno Original Zebra Etching Le 20/125 Signed NumberedGuillaume Azoulay "the Joy Of Thora" 1984 (original Etching)Antique Framed Etching Francis Seymour Haden 1818-1910 Twickenham Church KeppelFélix Hilaire Buhot - Etching 1879 - L’hiver à Paris (the Winter In Paris)Erotic Ex Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Günther HujberEx Libris Bookplate Etching Exlibris Konstantin Kalinovich