A hand colored engraving is an Original Print created by cutting lines into the surface of a plate (zinc, copper or acrylic). The engraved lines are then filled with ink and the surface of the plate is wiped clean. A print is pulled from the plate by passing it through an etching press with a piece of rag paper on top. The resulting print is then hand colored with watercolors and colored inks.
Step#1 Engraving the Plate
The artist first lays out his or her design on tracing paper. Then the image is transferred to the plate surface (usually a zinc, copper or acrylic plate) in reverse using carbon paper. Then the artist painstakingly engraves each line of the image into the plate using special engraving tools. If the artist desires areas of the image to be dark shapes a technique called cross hatching is used. This consists of many engraved lines close together to give the illusion of black when viewed by the eye.
Step #2 Inking The Plate
At various stages of the engraving process the artist pulls proofs from the plate to see his progress. A thick black etching ink is rubbed into the engraved lines with a dabber made of thick felt. Then the excess ink is wiped off the surface of the plate with starched cheesecloth. A circular wiping motion is used to remove most of the ink. Finally the highlights are brought out by wiping the top surface of the plate with news print.
Step #3 Printing The Plate
After the plate has been engraved & inked a print may be pulled from the surface. The plate is placed face up on an etching press bed, a piece of heavy rag paper is placed on the inked plate and finally a thick felt is placed on top of the plate & paper. This stack of plate ,paper & felt is then hand cranked between two large steel cylinders the top roller applies a great deal of pressure to the felt & paper forcing it against the plate. Once it has moved through the press the felt is removed and the paper is peeled away from the plate removing any ink that was left on the surface. The resulting print is the reverse image of what was engraved on the surface of the plate. This is why the artist reversed the image in step #1.
Step #4 Drying & Hand-Coloring The Print
Once the print is removed from the plate it is taped to a wood panel and left to dry for about twenty four hours. When the print is dry it may be Hand-Colored. Water color is applied to the image to bring out the design. This is done in much the same fashion as one would do a watercolor painting.
Step #5 Signing & Numbering The Print
After the artist has repeated steps 2,3 & 4 as many times as there are prints in the edition it is time to sign and number them. Each piece is numbered 1/50 , 2/50 etc. where 1 & 2 are the print numbers and 50 is the number of prints in the edition. Then a title is written followed by the artists signature. This is all done in pencil to indicate that it is hand signed.