Making an Icing Sugar Aquatint

By Terri Stelfox

My name is Terri Stelfox and I am a maker. I graduated from the North Island College Fine Art diploma program in 2006 and the external Emily Carr University of Art and Design degree program at NIC in 2015. I work in a variety of mediums from pastel, oils and printmaking (collagraph, intaglio and wood block). Jellies is part of my printmaking process.

This past December, I created an edition of 25 prints named Jellies based on the look of mezzotint prints that I really admire. Traditional mezzotint requires marking the plate with fine lines for many hours with a tool (mezzotint rocker). I have done it and I find it an arduous process. The plates can be bought prepared but have a significant cost associated with them, which I also have done. Using aquatint with Baldwin’s Intaglio Ground (BIG) is one way to get the deep black of a mezzotint chemically instead of physically. There are a few ways to get an aquatint with BIG that I have been successful with, sandpaper aquatint and icing sugar aquatint among them. I referenced for those methodologies. For Jellies, I used the icing sugar aquatint. To do this I prepped my copper plate as normal ensuring it was grease-free. I rolled on the BIG so there was no copper visible. I sifted on pre-sifted icing sugar on to the coated plate, covering it completely and thickly, allowing it to sit for six minutes. I knocked off the excess icing sugar but didn’t touch the plate surface. I let the sugar coated plate sit for another 30 minutes, then put it into a 250 degree F (120C) convection oven for six minutes. I let it cool for 1 hour. Then the plate is soaked in warm water twice for 15 minutes. The plate sat for a day or two before I etched in the ferric chloride.

Below is the photo of the black printed icing sugar aquatint as well as the scraped back image. I etched the copper plate aquatint for 50 minutes in ferric chloride.

I transferred my reversed reference image to the plate and started to remove the burr (texture) with a metal scraper. The more you scrape an area, the more texture will be removed. The texture is what holds the etching ink when printing. Where the texture is removed (making smooth), the ink will be wiped out of those areas and will print lighter in tone. Where the texture is not modified, the plate prints with the full ink effect.

I proofed the plate with black ink and was happy with it.

I then printed the plate in a solid dark blue.

Then I got colour happy and explored inking the plate with multiple colours on the plate. The colours ranged from black, dark blue, medium blue, teal to a yellow green. How I wiped the ink off the plate influenced the image as well.