Saturday, 16 April 2016

Gum Arabic and Etching

Last weekend I went on a course to learn about etching copper using ferric sulphide. Although I didn’t produce anything worth showing it did make me want to start etching again. Using these materials means quite long bite time and at the moment I only get two or three hours a week at Hot Bed Press so I decided to revisit aluminium and copper sulphate etching. It’s quick biting and the plus side of the granular nature of aluminium means it doesn’t need an aquatint for tonal work. (The minus side means it’s not as sharp as copper but you can’t have everything)

For a long time I’ve wanted to incorporate text in my work. I’m probably not going to start using letterpress (though the process and feel of it does intrigue me) so etching seems like a good avenue to explore.
I’ve used Press n Peel in the past to apply text printed on a laser printer as a resist but it sets very hard on the plate and is difficult to remove. This means it isn’t easy to work into the plate after application. It's also expensive. A while back I'd read about using gum arabic transfer to produce a resist on metal so thought I’d have a go.

First a gum arabic print just to check that the materials and methods would work on paper.
Next printing onto plate

 The etched plates
And finally the prints

It needs refining. I left the dark text plate in the gloop a bit too long so it started to eat through the resist and even though you can print gum arabic onto paper using a tonal image the metal plate needs strong black and white contrast to etch properly but I’m looking forward to pushing this further.


  1. Oh my goodness Jac - great results in such a convoluted way. Text is so hard to print with and these just look great. I have never had much success with gum Arabic prints with paper, letter alone onto aluminium, but this inspires me to try again - woo hoo!

    1. Beginers luck I think. I thought I'd replicate these plates (so I could keep the originals to compare to) and then work into them to see what I could do with them. I couldn't even get them to etch at first and when I finlly did the bite was nothing like as good as before. Not quite back to the drawing board but I think the whole process might need more work

  2. These are really great! I love using text and cut it from lino quite a bit. I'm tempted to have a go at this


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