Materials & Techniques

Aquatint (printmaking)

Aquatint is an etching process used to achieve subtle shifts between light and dark. Aquatinting is the application of fine particles of resin onto all or part of a plate. The plate is heated to melt the resin and is then exposed to acid. The acid eats into the metal around the particles, creating a granular pattern. Tonal gradations depend on the strength of the acidic bath and the length of time the plate is submerged. Aquatint produces areas of tone ranging from deep black to light gray, and can give the appearance of ink washes, but upon close inspection it is made up of a network of fine grains much like a pixelated image.

Variations on the aquatint process include sugar-lift, spit biting, and soapgrounding. The processes rely on alternate materials applied to the plate's surface. These techniques can heighten tonal gradations and produce printed marks that resemble brushstrokes.

Adapted from

Emily Schiller, Visions of America exhibition gallery text, 2016.

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