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Etching Printmaking

 David Blackwood, The Friend bound for the Labrador, 2007, etching, 20 x 31.75 inches


Etching is a technique of Intaglio printmaking (which is the opposite of relief printing). Traditionally, the artist used a metal plate (copper, zinc or steel) covered with a protective layer of wax. Then they incised the drawing on the surface of the plate with a needle. The artist used strong acid to bath the plate in order to dissolve the unprotected parts of the metal plate and create fine lines. After this step they coated the surface with ink, allowing ink to settle within the depth of lines. After wiping out the extra ink from the surface of the plate and only leaving the ink in the etched lines of the drawing, the Artist placed the plate to a paper sheet and printed the image under high-pressure. One of the advantages of this type of printmaking is the multiple printing with the same plate[1]. A plate mark was visible around the perimeter.

The etching technique was first used for decorating armour and guns by metalworkers and goldsmiths. Daniel Hopfer (circa 1470-1536) invented the process of applying etching on armours and weapons. The seventeenth century was the great age of the etching technique. Many famous artists employed this method like Rembrandt, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. Later in the nineteenth and twentieth century, this technique re-emerged and was called as 'Etching revival'.

Canadian artists and Etching technique

Today, many artists still use this technique for printmaking. William W. Alexander was a founding member of the Association of Canadian Etchers in 1885. Although this was a short-lived foundation, it revived in 1916 as the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers. Jo Manning is one of the most famous Canadian etchers. She was an executive member of the Canadian Society of Graphic Art from 1960 to 1980. She is also a founding member of the Print and Drawing Council of Canada[2]. In Winchester Galleries we represent many artists who utilize etching techniques such as David Blackwood, Joe Fafard, P.K. (Page) Irwin, and Jean-Paul Riopelle.


[1] "The Artist's Studio: What Is Etching?". Retrieved 2019-05-01. Source:

[2] Lacroix, Laurier. “Artists’ Organizations”, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Published February 7, 2006, Retrieved, May 2, 2019. Source:

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