|Aquatint etching by Mariann Johansen-Ellis|
"a bit more is better", then think again! When it comes to aquatint, I think this is the most common mistake when you start out, to simply overdo the timing in the acid!
In Ferric Chloride at 15 degrees Baume, you should need no more than 30 sec for the first tone,
add a minute for the second tone, add 2 minutes for the next tone and finish off with maybe 2 - 3 more minutes for your really darks. Try this and you will see that it is much easier to be successful....
I have to confess, to having succumbed to the "more is better" (true to my nature) and forgetting that not in this case. Back on the straight and narrow now, and getting good results again.......
The Baume thermometer ( is it can be called that?) is also a really good investment for measuring the strength of your acid, when I started out doing etching, I used nitric acid and was forever fiddling about with adding a bit more, no, too strong, a bit more water in a very non technical way. Temperature had a lot to do with results etc etc...... so switching to the much more environmentally friendly, and above all, fume free ferric chloride, was great. It does not "go off", in the same way, it is very dependable and you know exactly how long to leave your plate in.
Nitric acid, still has a place in my studio though, (yep, non toxic it ain't!!) for biting out a plate or for relief work...... I am a bit confounded that the use of acid is now like the devil appearing.... non toxic is great, I am all for it, if it gives me the results I want! There is a place for the non toxic as well, it has to be treated with great respect , not fear and panic making, and has to be utilized and disposed of in a correct way. None of this is difficult, there are places that come and get your old acid to neutralize and dispose of it in a proper manner. Keeping acid in your studio, does not make your teeth fall out, or your fingers drop off, unless you are handling it in a very stupid way. So in my quiet little out of the way Cascada Studio, I keep my acid close by, stored properly, maybe even over safely knowing it is a dangerous, but for me, necessary tool in my printmaking endeavour.