Art Care tips for consideration, by Etching House,

It has been our experience with seeing many pieces of art over the years that the best way to take care of your art work is to have it framed professionally and use only quality archival materials.

Price for framing is often considered important to us all, but it can be a false economy. You may save a few dollars on framing but it could be at the detriment to the art work.

When framing the most important thing is the correct combination of quality and cost, if a valuable work of art is incorrectly framed it could over a period of time devalue your fine art Etching or Print art work should mould or foxing dampness (industry term) or discolouring, mount burn, or fading from light or heat occur.

Glass or Acrylic, a consideration is if the Fine art print work is to be hung on a cool or cold brick wall or concrete wall it’s been known to use acrylic as opposed to glass, why this is so that glass holds the cold acrylic doesn’t therefore the chances of condensation is far less, it is slightly dear to use the acrylic but not by much. We also feel it’s wise to put the felt buffer pads on the bottom back corners of the frames so the frame is not actually touching the wall and radiating or absorbing cold or heat. We recommend to the framers to use 3mm as opposed to 2mm acrylic for frames over 40 by 50 cm, the reason is that 2mm can buckle and or bow with warmer weather as its to thin, 2mm glass is the most commonly used material but has reflection issues for some people – applications, in this case there are non-reflective glass options if your choosing glass.

Non reflective glass, it has its place and is very good in many circumstances, a few years ago it wasn’t that popular as it muted the appearance of the etchings and Print art works,  it would look soft or slightly muted, today there has been some great improvements in this area and some specific brands of non-reflective glass are superb, the real question is considering the level of reflections versus the premium costs. We suggest if you have the opportunity to discuss this with your professional framer they may provide you with more detailed information.

Storage or hanging seek professional advice or services before storing or hanging your artwork, there are services available, check the internet for someone in your area, in our experience and a well known point, it is best never to hang works in direct, indirect light, avoid cold damp or hot places, example in some cases damp or cold brick walls can cause issues as during the day the warmth of the mid-day temperatures can promote condensation particularly if using glass, see the reference above. We found using 3mm acrylic in stead of glass often avoids the possible issue, Seek advice at all times, let your framer know exactly where and how you will place or store your fine art Giclee digital print or etching printed art work.

Storage of UN framed works is best kept in commercial archival storage binders or folders as used in State or National galleries and museums, Etching House uses materials supplied by Archival Survival in Melbourne. Email:
Website:, The environment for storage should be a stable clean dry place out of reach by heat sunlight, cold or dampness.

Etching House standard framing choice is we select only well-known suppliers of quality materials that give a guarantee on their products,, we only use framers that guarantee there workmanship.

Etching House generally we like to suggest the use of museum mount on the front with a matching 2 ply backing, most importantly we as an option like to use a Mylar sheet where affordable as a barrier directly behind the 2 ply sheet as added protection, but this is a premium cost, then an acid free foam core back, or a premium core flute. At Etching House we suggest the use of museum standard hinging technique. Framing is a very individual choice and should be so; a good framer can often be of great help. Please note that different artworks may need specific framing techniques, etching House relies wholly upon the framers advise and recommendations and only passes on such information for the use and guidance to its customers, but etching House dose not endorsed or warranty and materials or workmanship, any issues or claims are limited to that covered by the framer of Etching House choosing. Note, Etching House only arranges framing at the request or for an behalf of the customer.

It is suggested every 5 to 10 years your artwork should be revaluated, if your art is properly framed to begin with you can generally keep the matting (envelope) glass and backing as is and just change the timber frame to meet your changing décor.

In our personnel experience Never expose any art work in direct or indirect light artificial or sun light. Never have it exposed to any form of heat or extreme cold, be it sun, fire place, strong lighting, or radiant heat, especially in the case of works on paper, We recommend you choose the best materials and UV protection glass at all times, and inform you framer exactly of your environment that the art will be placed.

Art work frame Backing, Never use backing materials such as plywood, cardboard, MBF board.

Frame borers, Never use timber moulding that has any evidence of borer or wood termite like experience giving that aged look, our personnel experience has been in many cases borers despite import quarantine spraying etc come back often, be it from eggs or whatever, if you start seeing fresh powder or dust like build up or tiny pin holes, take your frame to your framer immediately. Never use solid core fencing wire, or brass type materials, insist on quality fittings, and have a professional advice you on hanging your work.

Important Note – The content of this ART CARE segment in the ETCHING HOUSE web site is our opinion based on our experiences, and is shared only as general information that may assist customers in evaluating for themselves the best application to care for their artwork.

Etching House is not accountable-responsible or liable for loss or damage what so ever as a result (directly or indirectly) of information contained in this web site and this section.


Here are some – GLOSSARY PRINTING TERMS and subjects


As etching appears to be a lost art today and the public interested in art must have very little knowledge of its technical problems, it may be advisable to explain this as briefly as possible.

A highly-polished copper plate is first cleaned with caustic soda and dilute nitric acid. A hand grip is then attached to it, as the plate must not be touched once it is cleaned. It is then held face up over a gas or oil burner till warmed sufficiently to melt the etching ground. The ground is a composition of bitumen, which, through a covering of fine silk, is rubbed over the surface of the copper in a thin coating. A pad, called a dabber, made of white kid padded with cotton wool, is dabbed forcibly over the ground, spreading it thinly and evenly over the surface of the copper. It must be perfectly smooth and even or it is liable to lift from the copper in the acid. The smoke, but not the flame, alone must touch the ground, or it is liable to be burned and so crack off under the acid. The ground is blackened so that the copper line will shine through it when the design is drawn on the copper with a needle point. The preparation of the plate requires considerable experience before it can be done efficiently.

The next operation is to transfer the design in outline to the blackened ground. An effective method of achieving this transfer is to blacken a sheet of tissue paper with soft lead pencil to act as a carbon copying paper. This is placed over the plate and the pencil design for the etching pinned over it and traced lightly with the etching needle. The plate is then ready to be needled.

As the hand must never touch the ground, a support is placed across the plate for the hand. If a very delicate technique is necessary it must be drawn under a magnifying glass of about a four-inch focus. This enforces an extremely cramped posture on the etcher while working on a plate.

There are various methods of needling a plate, too involved to be discussed in a brief note such as this. The method employed in the etchings here has been to etch out the fine grey tones first, and by a series of re-etching to add the half-tones and blacks. The etching itself is done by placing the plate in a solution of dilute nitric acid which bites only into the parts of the copper exposed by the needling. While in the acid it is carefully timed by the etcher, and this is the most anxious problem he has to face, for if he miscalculates he may either under-etch or over-etch the passage in the acid, and thereby ruin the result of a week or more of careful work in needling the design. No amount of experience can give him assurance over his timing. He may have got a hard copper which etches slowly or a soft one which etches too quickly. The acid is constantly weakening as it works on the plate, and he must keep adding fresh acid to try and keep it at an even strength. Having no means of testing its strength, he must trust to luck or cunning on equal terms to get the result he wants, and he can only be sure of that by wiping off the ground and taking a proof of the plate. If the result is a failure he has no resource but to discard the plate and start all over again with a fresh one. If the result of the first proofing is satisfactory he recleans and regrounds the plate and sets about working on the next section to be etched, and so on, proving and regrounding as he goes till the plate is finally completed. If the technique employed is one dealing with delicate tones and elaborate detail he may be a couple of months over one plate; and that he may discard finally if dissatisfied with its lack of the quality he has sought to achieve. It may be said of the etchings that their average is of one accepted to two discarded.

A la poupee, A la poupee: a pad or cloth is used to apply printers ink to the printing surface. This can be applied over the entire surface or to various parts of the plate.

Aquatint, Textures and tonal areas can be created by die use of aquatint, a technique where the metal plate is dusted with a fine resin. The plate is positioned horizontally inside an aquatint box, and then a dust storm is created inside the box. Resin particles fall onto the plate evenly and are then fused onto the plate by applying heat to its underside. Those parts of the plate where a tone is not required are covered with acid resist. Tar or varnish can then be painted onto the plate as the artist creates die image. The plate is then immersed in acid, which bites the exposed surface for varying lengths of time depending upon the depending upon the depth of tone required. Because this process can be used to block-in whole tonal masses resembling wash or water colours, it is often combined with Sugar lift,

Sugar lift, The image is drawn onto die plate using a water-soluble solution containing sugar. Then the plate is covered with an acid resist ground and placed in a water bath, during this process the artist’s lines dissolve, which allows the acid to bite into the image.

Suite, Is a series of prints by the same artist, or a group of artists perhaps working around a single theme?

Restrike, This is a reprinting of a plate, usually posthumously, and is therefore neither numbered nor signed.

Cancellation print, Following completion of die edition the plate, stone or stencil is defaced so it cannot be identically printed again. Lithographic stones are usually ground down; silkscreen stencils are cleaned for reuse of the screen. Etching plates and wood and lino cut blocks can be scored from corner to corner, or have holes drilled in them, an impression is then made and this is called a ‘cancellation print’.

Chop, This is a metal, wooden or rubber stamp, which is pressed onto the paper leaving an embossed image and usually on the lower right hand side. It signifies the identity of the artist, workshop, printer, dealer, publisher or collector. Each printer and publisher has their own distinctive chop which proves where the work was created and who published it.

Intaglio, The Italian word intaglio meaning incising or engraving is used today to describe numerous processes of cutting into a surface, usually metal. Intaglio is a printing technique where ink is rubbed into the marks on the plate. The plate is then rolled under pressure through a press, which prints the ink onto the paper. Intaglio is the exact opposite of relief printing where the printing part of the plate (or block) is raised and the non-printing part cut away. Intaglio techniques include etching, mezzotint, dry point, soft-ground etching, hard ground etching, aquatint, stipple engraving, engraving and variations and combinations of each.

Lithography, A print is created when the artist draws onto a porous limestone or zinc plate with a greasy material. Oil based inks are then applied with a roller; ink adheres to the greasy image (lithographic crayon, or a greasy ink called tusche) and is repelled by the damp areas. Paper is then applied to the stone or plate using a press to transfer the design. Lithography is capable of infinitely varied effects of colour, tone and transparency. The final lithograph is often printed from a number of plates or stones, one for each colour.

Dry point, This process is similar to engraving, yet done in such a manner as to leave a ‘burr’ beside each line. When printed, this burr leaves a soft blurred impression and usually wears down quickly (depending upon the skill of the printer) during the editioning process. Hence the practice of collectors wanting a dry point that is ‘low in die edition’ before the burr wears off.

Engraving, It is a process where the surface being used to create the image is incised or inscribed using any hard tool, like a burin, steel needle, spike, or an electric engraving instrument. These grooves or lines are then inked up, and printed under pressure. No acid is used in engraving.

Etching, Etching is the controlled erosion of the surface of a copper, zinc or steel plate usually by acid. First die plate is covered with an acid resist ground such as bitumen or wax. The design is then drawn into die ground with a sharp implement (etching needle, burin or scraper) to expose die metal below. When the artist has drawn through the coated plate it is immersed in an acid bath. The longer the plate is left in the acid the deeper the lines become. A hard ground etching is when the artist draws through a hard coated surface on die plate. A soft ground etching is when the artist draws with a pencil or crayon over a piece of paper which covers a soft coating on the plate. The next step requires die inking and wiping of the plate (as in engraving) so that die ink remains only in the etched lines. It is then printed under pressure onto dampened paper leaving around its edges an embossed plate mark or cuvette.

Hors commerce (H/C), These are usually printed with (but outside) the edition and are used to show die trade, for display, or to sell from. Hence they often show signs of excessive handling. They are marked lower left, beneath the image,

Mezzotint, In place of an engraver’s burin, the artist uses a spiked wheel called a roulette to traverse the areas of the printing plate he or she wants to print black. The rocker, a tool with a convex under surface covered with a multitude of fine hard metal teeth, can be rocked side-to-side across the entire surface of the plate. The plate is first roughed with a rocker, and if printed at this stage would register an overall velvety black. The image is then created by burnishing away the minute barbs left by the rocker, resulting in an infinite range of graduating tonal transitions, working from black to white.

Proof trial, This is an impression taken while the artist is working on a plate, stone or screen to see how the image looks. They are usually marked T/P at the lower left beneath the image, and are outside die edition. Because they show how the artist works by revealing the print in an unfinished state, they are considered unique – and therefore highly valued by col­lectors.

Aquatint, soap ground, Is when the artist paints die plate with a liquid soap solution instead of tar or varnish? The soap solution, like the tar or varnish, protects die painted image on die plate from the acid.

Aquatint, spit bite, Is when the artist bites the plate unevenly by painting acid over the aquatint surface? This gives the final work on paper a washed water-colour look.

Bon a tirer (BAT), Before a publisher starts printing an edition the artist will mark the proof BAT, or Bon a tirer, as the image that die printer uses as a guide for the edition. It is marked Bon a tirer (French for ‘good to pull’) or abbre­viated to Bon or BAT in die lower left, beneath the image. These remain the property of die print workshop.

Burnishing, The artist uses a burnishing tool to polish a plate’s surface, to either remove lines or make corrections.

Cancellation print, Following completion of die edition the plate, stone or stencil is defaced so it cannot be identically printed again. Lidiographic stones are usually ground down; silkscreen stencils are cleaned for reuse of the screen. Etching plates and wood and lino cut blocks can be scored from corner to corner, or have holes drilled in them, an impression is then made and this is called a ‘cancellation print’.

Edition, The total number of identical prints decided by the artist that she or he has decided to make from the plate, stone or screen is called die edition, and is matched to die Bon a tirer (BAT) Edition, special (S/E)

During the process of making die plates the artist may be particularly pleased with an in-state proof and choose to run a small edition of it before working the plate to another stage. This short edition constitutes a ‘special edition’ and is numbered with Roman numerals to differentiate it from the final edition, e.g. Vl/X. Otherwise, it can be a previously editioned plate taken to another stage by die artist, perhaps in another colour as a commemorative edition. It differs from a re strike as it done under the artist’s supervision and is signed and numbered.

Artist proof is a work for the artist to keep for private use, and should not exceed 10% of die edition. During the editioning process there is occasionally (depending on the skill of die master printer) a small percentage of prints that vary slightly to the BAT. They may be perfect in every way except the plate tone may be darker, or lighter, or the registration of the plate on die paper may be out, and these usually make up die A/Ps.

Proof printer’s (P/P), It is customary for the master printer to retain one or two prints (depending on the size of the edition) for him or herself. These are marked P/P at the lower left under the image.

Proof state (S/P) Sometime known as in-state proofs, they are designated at lower left, beneath die image, as S/P, or simply ‘state’ and are taken after each stage of the print is completed. Technically, this term includes trial proofs (T/Ps), however in practice it is usually an either/or usage, governed by die number of plates and stages involved.

Giclee, The term originates from the French meaning ‘to spray’ and uses a inkjet colour application and digital colour separation. Giclee is a computer controlled, fine art print making process. It uses particles of very fine sprayed ink, about 15 microns in size which is four times smaller than a human hair. The microscopic jet-stream spray is applied simultaneously to the paper and is controlled by a crystal frequency. The print is then coated with layers of waterproof U.V. varnishes. The result is a fine art print with flawless colour reproduction and extraordinary consistency. Giclee today really means any high quality ink-jet print and is often used in galleries and print shops to denote such prints, many iconic artists are using this process to day as a means of distributing very affordable iconic works of art, it is important to have proper authenticity at all times with these works.

Another take on the process of Etching

Etching is the method of engraving using acid on a metal surface. It is also a printmaking method wherein the image is carved into a surface of a metal plate with the use of an acid. This acid bores into the metal surface, and leaves behind rough areas or lines if the surface is too narrow.

Etching is a process which is believed to have started in Augsburg, Germany, by Daniel Hopfer who used the technology in armour making. Later on, the method was applied to printmaking.

The metal plate used in etching is usually copper or zinc, which has a thin coating of resin that is resistant to acid. This coating can also be made of some waxy material. The metal plates are usually smoked so that the engravings and lines become clearly visible through the resin. A sharp tool then scratches the metal and exposes it without actually penetrating it.

As the etching design is completed, the plate is immersed in an acidic solution that attacks the exposed metal parts. During this process, called a bath, the plate is immersed, but frequently removed until the lines are etched to their satisfactory depth.

A coating varnish is then applied to stop the acid from attacking the metal surface further. In this process, the lines which were exposed to the acids longer get the darker prints. Other etchers also apply the acids directly on the plate’s surface.

In printmaking; however, the varnish is removed, and the plate is coated with ink after being warmed or heated. The ink is then wiped carefully so that enough amounts remain the etched depressions. A soft, moist paper is then used to cover the plate, and ran through an etching press.

There is a wide range of modifications in etching techniques. Some etchers modify their products by removing undesired lines. They do this by burnishing or by modifying the original state of the plate after their trial print.

Prints appear differently in various stages, and only a few first prints can be made out of a single plate. Etchers also destroy these plates after making a number of prints.

Several methods of etching produce different effects. Soft-ground etching looks like a pencil drawing, while aquatint produces an effect similar to wash drawing. Aquatint is usually used in combination with hard-ground etching.
Pictorial etching, which evolved from burin engraving also originated from Germany, where artists etched on iron as the earliest example of this delicate form of art.

Nowadays, the popular methods of etching are wet and dry etching. Wet etching is a simple method that requires a container or bin with a solution that is meant to dissolve the metal used.

The downside of this process is that it needs a mask to selectively etch the plate, and one has to find a mask that will not dissolve in the prepared solution. This process is fairly suitable for etching on thin films.

Dry etching, is divided into three classes, namely, reactive ion etching (RIE), sputter etching, and vapour phase etching. Several gases are introduced in the RIE method, where plasma is mixed in the gas to break gas molecules into ions. The ions are then accelerated and start reacting to the metal surface.

Sputter etching is similar to RIE, but without the reactive ions. Vapour phase method is the simplest dry etching technique. In this method, the metal plate is placed inside a chamber, where gases are introduced. The design is then dissolved at the metal surface by the chemical reaction with the gas molecules.

The most popular vapour phase etching techniques are silicon dioxide etching (uses hydrogen fluoride) and silicon etching (uses xenon diflouride).