Solarplate etching: Paseo del Prado, Havana

24 April 2011

Because I had nothing better to do last week, I went on a course at the Ink Spot Press in Brighton to learn solarplate (photopolymer) etching.

Unlike tradition etching, photopolymer etching uses no acid, no wax, and no sticky smelly stopout varnish; produces no fumes and no dust; and doesn't turn your hands yellow. In short, it's safe.

The plate is etched by projecting ultraviolet light through a transparency of your design onto a polymer-coated aluminium plate. The light hardens the exposed polymer; you wash the plate in water, removing the soft parts, and revealing the etched lines. You then print the plate in exactly the same way as a traditionally etched plate.

Photopolymer etching seems to be promoted primarily as a means of creating etchings from photos, so my first plate was based on one of my photos.

House on the Paseo del Prado, Havana.
Solarplate etching on paper, approx A4.

I chose this photo from my trip to Cuba because I wanted to see how much detail the etching method would pickup. Compare it with the original photo:

Almost every detail!

Then I printed the plate in different colours.

This last one shows one of the problems with solarplate etching: if you cut the plate to size by using a Stanley knife, the polymer coating can split from the plate at the corners, leaving a gap into which ink creeps, and then spills out when you print.

More pictures later.