Photo-Etching Take 2: Technician Corner

Our technician Kate Desforges has been spending some dedicated print research days in the studios recently, most recently exploring photo-etching. This time is hugely important to refine particular processes and try out new ones, ensuring that we can continue to offer a wide range of printmaking techniques to our community of printmakers, and importantly, to make sure that they all work! Imaginatively titled ‘Technician Corner’, Kate will be documenting her research in blog posts throughout the year. Here’s the second installment…

Continuing in my photo-etching research I spent a day last month doing further tests, with the aim of getting a broader range of tones. I was pretty confident that my platemaking process was good, so I focused instead on delving deeper into how I could manipulate my image to suit the process. I did some interesting reading on this website, which I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in photogravure printmaking: and I played about with making a process compensation curve on Photoshop. This sounds technical, but essentially what I have noticed about the photo-etching process is that it tends to accentuate the blacks and whites in an image, and burn out the mid-tones. So I created a setting on Photoshop which accentuates the mid-tones in the image, compensating for the fact that they tend to get burnt out. I was really pleased with the results, as you can see from the images below. I just want to make a more finished image using the process now to really test it, (and that means as little user error as possible). Watch this space!

We would always recommend you photo-etch with a print technician in a workshop space for safety.

Etching the copper photo-etching plate in Edinburgh Etch
The plate on the right is the most recent - made using the process compensation curve. Let's see how it prints.
The final print. You can see from the tonal swatches on the left that there is a lot more tonal detail in this image, compared to the last one.
A brilliant book I'm using for reference.