Hard Ground:  


  A ground is a coating applied to a plate to protect it from the action of the mordant used in etching. Following plate preparation a ground can be applied to protect the plate. A hard ground is typically drawn through with a needle. Traditionally the hard ground yields a pen-like line associated with etchings. The longer the hard ground plate is exposed to the acid, the deeper and wider the line becomes. rule hard ground etching
1.  Hard ground, is an acid resistant coating made of asphaltum, rosin, and beeswax to varying degrees depending on whether it is of the ball or liquid variety. VCU primarily utilizes a liquid hard ground. Follow the steps under plate preparation prior to applying a ground.
2.  Place the filed, degreased plate at an angle on a piece of newspaper
3.  Using a soft brush, apply the ground with out excessive brushing.
4.  Allow the hard ground to dry thoroughly before making the drawing
Drawing on the Hard Ground Plate: Transferring a Drawing    
1.  Direct drawing on the plate is suggested, as the quality of the line carries a spontaneous character that may be lost when tracing a transferred drawing. However, an etching is a mirror image of the plate, so transferring a sketch as a guideline can be helpful for some.   drawing through hard ground
2.  Only pencil drawings can be transferred as the graphite is capable of releasing from the paper to adhere to the hard ground. The softer the pencil, the more likely the drawing will transfer clearly.
3.  Be certain that the hard ground is dry. If the ground is still tacky, paper fibers will stick to it.
4.  Lighten pressure on the press about 1/2 - 1 turn less than for printing.
5.  Set up the press as for printing.
6.  Place the thoroughly dry hard grounded plate face up on the press bed.
7.  Place you drawing on the plate face down. If your drawing paper does not cover the entire surface of the plate dampen a sheet of newsprint (not newspaper ) and place it over the plate and drawing to protect the felts.
8.  Place the felts over the plate/paper, and run it through the press with moderate pressure. You can check on the transfer by lifting one corner to have a peek. If the drawing didn't transfer, increase the pressure and run the plate back through. It is advisable to err on the side of too little pressure to avoid adhering the drawing to the plate.
Drawing on the Hard Ground Plate: Direct Drawing    
  etching needles
1.  Drawing through hard ground is done with any point that can successfully break the ground and reveal the copper.
2 When drawing through hard ground be certain the needle reveals shiny metal. It is unnecessary to dig into the plate, the acid will physically etch the line.
3.  The weight of the line can be controlled two ways when etching with hard ground: the width of the tool/mark, and the length of the time the line is exposed in the acid. A blunt tool can create a think mark. A line exposed for a lengthier time in the acid will get both deeper and wider.
4.  Complete the entire drawing, and control the weight of the line by exposing the entire plate for the time determined for the lightly etched areas. Remove the plate from the acid bath, rinse well, and dry. Block out any areas determined to be preserved as light with additional hard ground, then proceed with etching.
5.  Prior to etching the plate in the acid bath, have a plan for approaching the length of acid exposure times. Light areas require a short exposure. Longer exposures create deeper cavities and darker lines.
TIP:  Don't reveal large bare areas with the needle. A dense area is formed by crosshatching with definite land areas remaining between the lines. Remember tooth on the plate is what holds ink, so large dark areas require lands and pits in the plate.
Etching the Plate in a Mordant     {next}    
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Intaglio - a Studio Manual, was created with support from the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence - Small Grant Program.
This electronic intaglio studio manual was authored by Holly Morrison for the students at the VCU School of the Arts.

©Holly Morrison, all rights reserved