Aquatint using Hairspray

I have always been concerned with safer practices in printmaking and this grew stronger since I founded my open – space print studio in 2012. I spent a long time trying to think about a method to recreate aquatint effects on copper plates without using aquatint resin. I researched the alternative aquatint methods available and although those seem effective they presented some type of difficult in terms of consistency, handling or removal. I was looking for a replacement that produced consistent results, good tonal range, it was easy to apply/clean off, had good adherence to the metal plate, and good value for money. It was equally important that my students could use it with some level of independence either during a weekend etching workshop (regardless their level of experience in printmaking) or as part of a continuous practice.

My experiments also took into consideration handling of materials, feasibility of procedures in small spaces, safety (especially in comparison to the resin), and availability of products involved.

sineadfSoap ground by Sinead Fitzgerald

Coming from the principle that in aquatint the acid bites around every single grain of the aquatint resin, I started thinking about ways of creating a grainy-type texture that would be strong enough to resist the action of the ferric chloride.

Hairspray has adhesive properties that I thought could well resist the acid bath at the same time that it can produce tiny dots. It seemed like I had the ideal conditions to go ahead with that. The experiment was successful and since then I have incorporated this technique in my classes.

Every single student is able to understand it, work independently, and achieve excellent results that don’t lose in quality to the aquatint resin. However it does create a different type of grainy texture from the aquatint resin that can be clearly observed in the darker tones. For lighter ones either grainy or flat tones can be achieved depending on application. Dark large flat areas may present a slight tonal variation in some parts.

alice_bentleyTwo plate print: soft ground and aquatint by Alice Bentley

The process allows for reapplication of spray and overlaying of tones. For better and more consistent results use fresh and strong ferric chloride.

I really hope you get to try this one and share the results, questions, observations.

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