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Forum – Traditional Printmaking Techniques

with 40 comments

This forum is for the discussion of technical issues in the traditional printmaking media. This is the space both to pose questions for your colleagues and share your innovative solutions with them. To participate, just type your comment into the box below. Then hit the “Submit Comment” button.

Written by Michael Booth

June 2, 2008 at 11:06 am

40 Responses

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  1. I have som korn’s transfer ink and do not know how to use it ?
    I want to transfere intaglio to the litho stone or plate. is this the ink to use.
    I could not find a technical article on this ink, graphic chemical had none.
    can someone reply?

    lyda toy

    September 18, 2008 at 9:02 pm

  2. Can anyone possibly tell me when spit bite etching first began?


    December 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

  3. Information on the transfer ink that you refer to is in the Tamarind book. I have used it and it is very fatty and works well. You need to make some transfer paper if you cannot buy any. The idea is that once an image is made on a stone you take a transfer on several sheets of transfer paper so that if you lose the image while printing you can reapply it to extend the size of your image. I was shown how to use this method by an octogenarian lithographer, now deceased.

    It may be possible to ink up the plate with Korns and then to print it on transfer paper then to transfer it to the stone or grained plate.

    Pamela Griffith

    January 3, 2009 at 4:37 am

  4. #

    Information on the transfer ink that you refer to is in the Tamarind book. I have used it and it is very fatty and works well. You need to make some transfer paper if you cannot buy any. The idea is that once an image is made on a stone you take a transfer on several sheets of transfer paper so that if you lose the image while printing you can reapply it to extend the size of your image. I was shown how to use this method by an octogenarian lithographer, now deceased.

    It may be possible to ink up the plate with Korns and then to print it on transfer paper then to transfer it to the stone or grained plate.

    Pamela Griffith

    January 3, 2009 at 4:37 am

  5. Can anyone tell me how to make transfer paper as the industrial one I used to buy is no more available

    walter Sarfatti

    January 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm

  6. Tamarind Techniques for Fine Art Lithography is available for purchase. Information on the book can be found at

    Shelly Smith

    March 16, 2009 at 8:19 pm

  7. Mike and the rest of you print nerds who are interested in screenprinting, check this out from my colleague Guido Lengwiler, ASPT. This section in the link below is only a small part of the overall history of our favorite print process. (or at least mine!) It’s going to be a monster, probably the most complete and well researched book on the subject – more than 600 pages.

    Click to access book_selecta8.pdf

    An excerpt from the upcoming History of Screenprinting by Guido Lengwiler of Switzerland..


    The book is expected out this summer in German, with an English version shortly after. Guido has graciously provided this sneak peek to interested people on this website. Please respect that the copyrights of all the photographs and information displayed on this PDF are the property of the author, the companies and the families that have put the respective documents at our disposal. Absolutely no copying or distribution of this material is allowed.

    andy macdougall

    June 16, 2009 at 4:51 am

    • We’ll take “print nerds” as a compliment, Andy.

      This advance on your friend Guido’s book looks truly impressive. If he wants to send us a review copy when the English version comes out we’ll be happy to review it for World Printmakers.

      Mike Booth

      June 16, 2009 at 5:35 am

  8. I have found numerous OLD cans of powdered rosin. The rosin is much darker in color than new rosin. Not sure if rosin goes bad, I am wondering if it is still good to use for stone lithography?

    Tamie Beldue

    July 15, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    • Dark powdered rosin used to signify that an agent was included to prevent it from clumping up as lump rosin will. This allows it to be used for lithography but ill advised for etching aquatints.


      May 11, 2010 at 9:02 pm

  9. I am wondering if anyone has information on how I could build my own lithography press. I know it may seem like a ridiculous task, but I am desperate to continue with my artwork and don’t have any access to presses. If anyone has information on any builds, even for other press types, I would be happy, but I am mainly looking to work in lithography.

    Thank you 🙂


    January 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    • Hi Elliott:

      I have made two litho presses for myself and help two of my students build litho and etching presses. If you go to my blog site you should find some pictures somewhere on that site. You will have to know something about welding steel and basic metal working, but you can get the rollers made a local machine shop for the size of your press. Get back to me be e-mail if you have any questions. I have some theories that seem to work well that press makers seem to not take into consideration.

      Nik Semenoff

      April 25, 2010 at 1:29 am

      • Thanks so much! I’ll check out your blog right away and let you know if I have any questions.


        April 25, 2010 at 8:01 am

    • Yes, first you have to buy photopolymer plates (solarplate). you can find them at amazon where they have the best quality, then go in buy a washer and dryer photopolymer machine don’t have to be expensive. wash off the desings you want and add to your letter press


      April 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  10. just wanted to know if you can use winter green oil to do image transfer on aluminum plates. i normally use turpentine.


    January 9, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  11. Hi Hennie:

    You will have to switch to waterless as recycling the plates is very safe and simple. I rarely use a new plate, except when I feel the smoother grain of the recycled plate not right for the material I am using for imaging. Some plates have been reused more than 30 times. There is lots of information on that at my university or personal blog sites.

    Nik Semenoff

    June 19, 2010 at 2:57 am

  12. I’ve been teaching the aquatint process for a couple of decades, but have recently noticed that powdered rosin doesn’t create as much fine dust as it used to. It seems to settle out very quickly, leaving a fairly course grain on the plate. I remember that a newly charged rosin box should produce a thicker cloud than it does. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this issue. Do you think this has anything to do with the humidity in the studio. Last year, our university has renovated its heating and cooling system. My box is homemade and uses a vacuum cleaner blower. I use graphic chemical powdered rosin. Thanks for the great forum!

    Ralph Slatton

    November 9, 2010 at 4:30 am

  13. I am interested in using charbonell waterbased inks. Are they as good as the traditional etching inks?


    February 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm

  14. I am in my thesis semester at the University of Mississippi and I would like to etch into car parts (i.e. doors, bumpers, mufflers). I was wondering if anyone had any experience in this. I would like to know what acids would be a good etchant and if I would have to remove paint, etc?


    March 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm

  15. I don’t know exactly what materials would eat away the paint and metal, but a lot of stuff is etched or eaten in the screenprinting world. We used to sell and use a lot of acid etch for glass….same with metal. And discharge is all the rage with t-shirt printers, heat activated, that might do funny things to a car.
    Check with sgia or a local screenprinting supply house for materials, or the chemistry department.

    Andy macdougall

    March 8, 2011 at 12:31 am

  16. Re:charbonell waterbased inks -I have not tried those and am concerned about having a skin form too quikly

    I HAVE been using Caligo Safe Wash Ink I love it.

    Since I have used the oil based inks in school years ago and just got back into printmaking -at home and since my basement is not so well ventilated I wanted to eliminate having to use solvents while I print.

    The benefits are that these inks ARE oil based and wash up with soap and water very well! I even rinse out my cheese cloth/tarlitans and get more use out of them -I wash them (not with clothing) and my shop rags in the washing machine -good as new!

    Take care to make sure your paper is well blotted and squeegeed or your ink will run.

    The tack can be adjusted with etching oil or transparent extender -since it is oil based -It handles the same and can sit out on your mixing slab without drying too fast or forming a skin!


    March 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    • Hi Evan

      I have been struggling with the Caligo Safe Wash Inks, I have been using them with collagraph and they are a nightmare.. and the finish is very flat! Have you some advice that might be of help?



      April 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm

  17. Question. It’s been suggested that I presoak my etching paper the night before a day of printing, wrapping it in plastic and putting it under weight after. Should the paper be squeegeed or blotted first? Thanks

    suzy flood

    March 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    • yes , drain the paper and blott it before putting it in the plastic overnight. It will still retain moisture.


      March 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      • thanks for the reply. i soaked it for 25 min (somerset velvet 300g) lightly drained it and wrapped it. when i got to the studio the next day i blotted it all and used it straight away. it was GREAT. saved so much time and the paper was really evenly moistened. a great success, especially for editioning!

        suzy flood

        March 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  18. hello there, i am trying to achieve large flat areas of saturated colour by using aquatint etching onto steel. All i can get so far is patchy dull results. I dont think i am overwiping the plate and am using correctly dampened paper and sufficient pressure. any ideas ? please help!


    March 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    • marcel-
      It’s been my experience that if your aquatint etch is not deep enough or is overbitten, your prints will not be saturated. One way to test this is to print with black and see if you have a rich black print. Metals will also dull some colors through a chemical reaction, particularly reds. I work mostly on copper, so I can’t say for certainty that this is true for steel, but it might be something to consider. If you are using oil based inks, consider using a water or soy based to see if the dullness improves.

      Ralph Slatton

      March 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    • try using just the pusher and catcher blankets, no cushion.

      Ter Roth

      June 12, 2011 at 12:08 am

  19. Hi—has anyone tried intaglio (or photogravure) printing on vellum or parchment? Is it necessary to soak the hide to accept ink? Does it smear or otherwise fail? Thanks in advance….Ter in Seattle

    Ter Roth

    June 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm

  20. Hello, I’ve been using nitric acid for etching, and im using a military grade full face gas mask for protection from the acid fumes, but im not very sure that it provides enough protection from acids. The mask is a standard issue military mask in our country.

    So if any one of you uses gas masks for protection could you say what type of mask it is and what type of canisters it has and how log do they last.
    Thanks in advance

    • Are you ventilating the acid fumes out of your working area? Wearing a mask may not be adequate as the fumes will rise to the ceiling and could be intone area after you have recanted your acid bath. Chemical pneumonia is a danger especially if you are etching in basements without proper ventilation. I would advise that you work outside and cover your acid tray and carefully decant when you are finished. Please remember to keep children and pets away from your working area.

      Janet Berry

      March 22, 2012 at 5:04 am

  21. I have been using .012x 24″x36″ lithographic ball-grained plates for over 20 years – I recently ordered
    a smaller size from Renaissance Graphic Arts in the only guage they had available (.015) without “special ordering” — On sending this heavier guage plate through my litho press, it emerged curled up at each end, a problem I never encountered with the .012 guage plates. This happened with each and every print and
    though I salvaged the prints, dealing with the plate-curl-problem was a real problem. Tapeing the plate to the bed was useless… Would appreciate reply –Any ideas, anyone?

  22. Keith at Takach Press solved my problem re the .015 laluminum-plate curl –Thanks much!!

  23. Comments re use of nitric acid in 2012: in response to majajordanovarian Jordanov/Janet Berry

    I am surprised to see etchers still using this dangerous acid while better alternatives are available, specialty when the printmaker realized the toxicity of the material. Chemicals such as ferric chloride, copper sulfate and cupric chloride are available for many decades, but some reason have not been introduced into many print studios.

    I developed the copper sulfate mordant in the early 1990, making this process available now for 20 year; being published in referred and popular journals, as well on the Internet in all this time. While the original formula was meant for aluminium and zinc, in 2008, I developed a modification to the copper sulfate bath so that it can efficiently etch copper plates, just like the electronic industry has been doing for many years. One of the big advantages of using cupric chloride for copper is that is, like the original copper sulfate bath, will regenerate when access to oxygen is made available.

    To remove dangerous hydrochloric acid that is required in these processe, I have suggested the use of common salt and sodium bisulfate, which come in dry form and not dangerous to store in strong liquid form; that they be mixed in water to get the weak form of HCl that is needed. By the addition of hydrogen peroxide, the bath is complete and will etch copper plates and become stronger as more cupric chloride is formed. It etches cleanly like Dutch mordant that is dangerous to mix in the first place.

    The information is posted on my university site, but suggest there is more date on my personal blog at: There is information on how to remove all toxic materials in you decide to dispose of the bath and want to pour the liquid down the drain. The article in farther back in previous pages, but more than enough information for you to start. Contact me directly if you have any questions or problems.


    April 5, 2012 at 1:36 pm

  24. Anyone using a vertical etching tray? I have heard that some people have experienced leakage and no customer service to fix problem

    Pat holton

    June 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

  25. My name is Craig Krug. I am a former Tamarind printer (1991), and am currently working on a short paper on lithography etch technique I learned of in early 1970’s @ Stuttgart Art Acadamy for “Tamarind Technical Papers”. Technique involves using a propane torch to heat thin layer of dusted rosin to image. Allows a hotter first etch. I’m wondering if anyone is familar w/ technique? History?? Thanks!!

    craig krug

    October 20, 2015 at 7:58 am

  26. I’m a bit confused perhaps. This is a comment, not a reply.

    I realize that digital printmaking is probably not a welcome topic on this site, but I wish to state my opinion that all the methods of traditional printmaking can be emulated by the computer and related technologies.

    My advice to trad print makers is to carefully consider digital methods before getting too deeply committed to the methods of the past.

    I come to this opinion as one who has spent many years in the graphics trade, who has created a large body of illustrations, and who has great respect for old time printmaking skills.

    Elliott Banfield

    May 29, 2021 at 4:46 am

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Elliott. Your comment is not unwelcome. You make good sense from your point of view. Stubborn hand-pulled print people, I think, base their objections on two factors, one romantic, the other not so much. 1/ The mystery, beauty and tradition of a hand-pulled print off a copper or zinc plate. 2/ “Digital prints,” which you and I know are just photocopies, can be sold for a tenth of the price of a hand-pulled print and they can be sold to people who don’t understand the difference. They have thus dynamited the market for fine-art prints.

      Michael Booth

      May 29, 2021 at 9:03 am

      • Yes, Michael, there is often a conflict between quality and quantity. The best things are often the most rare and costly. But does it HAVE to be that way?

        Snobbery plays a role. Some people will not enjoy a restaurant unless it’s expensive. This kind of prejudice prevents the public from seeing the beauty that might very well exist in mass produced objects (until they become “collectibles”).

        Some artists think that since they’ve invested time and effort in a print, it MUST be valuable and wonderful. Another prejudice.

        In my view, if the old masters had had access to Photoshop, our museums would be filled with digital prints.

        Elliott Banfield

        May 31, 2021 at 3:24 am

  27. Troubleshooting Paper Issues:
    I am hand printing a 6×14” shina plywood carved block using waterbed speedball ink. I did not have trouble working on Reeves BFK paper but I ran out. Now I am trying to print on Japanese fibrous paper (may be Masa but not sure). The paper keeps “sticking” onto my block so that when I pull the print I’m left with many “fuzzy” spots. Does anyone know what might be causing this? The ink? The humidity? The paper being old?

    Any thoughts appreciated. I am trying to use my existing paper before purchasing new.

    Ashley Pillsbury

    August 24, 2021 at 7:09 pm

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