Sulfate etching & printmaking workshop

In the Visual Arts learning area we have a strong commitment to strengthening our art making practice through a rich ongoing internal PD program. During Terms 1 and 2 we were involved in a series of workshops to learn about creating and working with etching plates for printmaking.


In the first session, our presenter, printmaker Antonietta Covino-Beehre took us through the technique of using saline sulfate to etch onto zinc, aluminium or steel plates. The plates are then inked up and put through the press to create the printed image.

We began by looking at the different types of metal plates available to etch onto. There are a range of different plates available and it is important to understand how each metal (aluminium, steel or copper) needs to be prepared and how it will react to the etching and printing process.



Once the plate has been selected and prepared, it is time to etch onto it. When etching, it is important to first understand how the etch will transfer as a print. For example, the printed image will be the reverse of what is etched – this is especially important if there is any text on the print as it should be etched in reverse.



I selected an image of Kyoto Palace to etch onto my plate from a recent trip to Japan:


Once the etch is complete, the plate can be placed in a bath of saline sulfate which corrodes the etched surface to expand the worked lines. The advantage of this is that with the increased surface area, more ink will be held in the plate and bolder lines will be transferred onto the final print.

Following a couple of baths in the sulphate and a good clean and dry, the plate is then covered in ink and put through the press.




I was really pleased with the result. Keep an eye out for some Visual Art teachers’ prints in the upcoming staff art exhibition later in Term 2.


2 Replies to “Sulfate etching & printmaking workshop”

  1. This looks like it was a great workshop and very cool that you were able to come away with an artwork to demonstrate these skills. I’m interested in the chemical process behind this technique. Is the saline sulfate reacting with the metal plate? Are there ways that you can manipulate this reaction to create differing or desired effects for the artwork for example, change the concentration of the solution or the temperature in which the reaction takes place? What are the differences between the different plates? Colour, intensity etc?

  2. Jeez Sam – gotta say my blogs look pretty pedestrian by comparison to yours. Glad you took the time to record what we did that day.

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