Thursday, 25 March 2010

Aluminium versus zinc

On Tuesday, I paid a visit to Metal Supermarkets here in Southampton in search of zinc plate. It was my first visit as I usually get my plates from printmaking suppliers but I was after some tricky sizes. Sarah and Katherine, who run Red Hot Press, mostly use aluminium for etching and source it there so I thought I’d give it a go. No solid zinc sadly, just Zintec sheet which is mild steel electro-coated with zinc apparently. Not sure how thick the coating is but I would imagine it doesn’t bear too much reworking before you’re down to the steel. I bought some aluminium instead - never tried it before but Sarah gets good results with it - and it was much cheaper than equivalent sized plates from printmaking suppliers. Bonus.

Was lucky enough to squeeze a couple of studio hours in this afternoon, between the chores, family stuff and general domestic flim-flam, so prepared a couple of small test plates for line work and aquatinting. I’m still getting a grip on how aquatinting works on zinc so this probably isn’t the best time to be experimenting with a new material, but there we are. And the aluminium does indeed feel and look very different to zinc when etched. It seems to take a lot longer to bite in the copper sulphate solution and the marks left around the particles of resin look very different too. Even the inking and wiping feels different and the weight and density of the plate in the hand. Odd how familiar one can get with (and attached to I suppose) the feel of a piece of metal.

The photos show the difference between pine resin aquatint on aluminium (top) and zinc (bottom).

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