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Been Working On This Etching For Weeks…

September 28, 2012

By now you may have heard, that in addition to the regular hard cover Nativity book (that’s coming out this week,) there will also be a limited edition leather bound book, sold with a limited edition hand-pulled etching, or intaglio print. That edition will be limited to about 100 copies, and will be available toward the end of November. If you want to reserve one of these limited edition sets (price will be between $240 and $300,) call Esther at the flagship Deseret Book: 1-801-328-8191. If she’s not there, ask for Linda or Jeff.

The purpose of this post is to show you the process of creating the etching. It’s a fascinating process, and a lot of work.

Dallan up at Deseret Book put this video together to get the word out about the print edition.

And now let me show you the process:

We begin with a smooth copper plate.

I started with two plates in case of accidentally ruining one. Rounded arch, corner notches, surface prep for mezzotint. I worked the plate with this tool to create a textured surface.

Back to the HFAC twelve years later to use the university printing facilities. I haven’t done this since I was in college.

Steven Carter beveling the edge. Good thing I’ve got an expert to help walk me through this.

Burnished around to isolate mezzotint spaces. Paper cutout helped me place the drawing.

Trying to do some careful burnishing back into the mezzotint texture to get subtle transitions and modeling.

Before I started burnishing, the mother’s face was even and dark like the hands are now.

Burnishing finished? I hope so, but I have no idea how this is going to translate to values on paper.

Degreased the plate. Now Steven is putting it in a box full of rosin. The rosin will settle in tiny pieces of powder on the plate.

Once the rosin settles onto the plate, the plate is heated to melt the rosin specks.

Then, with hard ground, I paint out the areas I don’t want changed.

The plate is now sitting in this acid. The acid is eating away the surface of the plate unprotected by hard ground and tiny rosin drops.

Another layer of hard ground. Masking off what I don’t want to get darker.

Third masking and back in the acid for an even darker value.

Here’s what the plate looks like post-aquatint.

Inking up the plate for our first proof. Got to see how these values translate on printed paper.

Running it through the press.

First proof. Holy cow, I didn’t burnish enough on those flesh tones. Long way to go, but it feels good to have made it this far.

Next, we try a photo transfer. We prepared these textures by printing their inverse with laser toner.

Acetone and a quick run though the press, and the toner transfers to the plate.

Here’s the plate with toner textures. Now we’ll do an aquatint again with fine rosin powder, masking with hard ground, and eating with acid.

Here’s what the plate looks like after the photo transfer and another round of aquatint.

Plate inked up.

Proof number two. Darker than I expected, but exciting.

More burnishing. Here’s what the inked up plate looks like for our third proof.

Third proof printed with a warmer ink.

Since the last photo, we open-bit the halo for a deep embossing, did a white ground on the halo for texture, and did some organic washy type stuff on the clothing with hard ground. I’m anxious to see the next proof.


So here’s the print with a touch of blue. The question is, is it finished? I think it may need a few dark accents.

Another textured aquatint, some direct scraping into the plate with an etching needle, some gold leaf and blue gouache for accents, and we have our finished product. We’ll print a hundred of these, sign, and number them.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2012 2:33 pm

    It’s gorgeous! I loved taking the intaglio classes at BYU and seeing you working there makes me feel nostralgic. Your print is beautiful and the extra touches on the print make it breathtaking!

  2. September 28, 2012 2:34 pm


  3. September 28, 2012 3:54 pm

    I studied printmaking in college. This print looks great.

  4. September 28, 2012 4:52 pm

    Kirk, that was awesome! I totally loved printmaking at BYU but have really forgotten the whole process! Thanks for sharing and what an amazing final image !

  5. September 30, 2012 10:58 pm

    Oh Kirk, wow, I love this! What a labor intensive process…such beautiful results,

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