Bee Etching

Inspired by my good friend Dy in the UK , I have been learning something about etching over the last few weeks.
Not much, but enough to realise how very tricky, time consuming and complicated it is. Dare I say I have barely begun to scratch the surface..:)

It seems a deceptively simple process. Coat a small zinc plate with some hard ground, (a combination of asphaltum, beeswax and rosin) scratch through this waxy surface with a pointed tool, immerse in weak acid, (which etches into the plate where the surface has been revealed) ink up and print.. easy!

What makes it so difficult are the mind numbing variety of options you have, starting with the different types of plates and grounds, the time in the acid, the inking up, the paper, the pressure on the press and combinations of all of those… however, I am giving it a go.

My little bumble bee seemed a natural subject so here is my first small bee print.

plate and bee

Plate and first print in burnt umber on Strathmore, plate size 6” x 4”


First print…


Second print, on a laid cream Rives BFK paper. It seems that etchings are very difficult to scan, the computer just wants to merge all the fine lines together in a jumble of pixels , so here is a closer detail of the bee, which is about 2 inches from top to toe.

bee detail

I am amazed at the sensitivity of the process.
The tiniest lines with only a short exposure to acid will give the finest results if correctly inked etc. ……..but so much to learn and so many pitfalls along the way as I am learning!

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  1. This is lovely…I'm very fond of bees so I'm glad you chose one to try etching with.

  2. Very nice beginning. My uncle was an etcher for his profession and he tried to encourage me to try it. I tried it for about 2 minutes and decided it was too tedious for my patience level. But I do appreciate etching and sure wish you well in it! It will be fun to see what else you do.

  3. Enjoyed both your posts on bees. I have been drawing bees lately too. I guess they are so all around us and they are really interesting subjects, lots of variety, and the contract of colors. Wonderful. Judy

  4. Great to know the bees have some enthusiasts.. I am up to my ears in design work at the moment.. all about bees as it happens… how much more can you all stand!!

    Jodi, thankyou so much, the bees are so lovely, more to come.
    Sande. Its been an interesting exercise and I have enjoyed it but the facilities are a bit lacking at the class so limited opportunity to take anything further which is a shame..and not sure my patience level is quite up to it either..!!
    Judy. great stuff glad to know you are drawing bees too and that quail is delightful..

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