How to Look at an Etched Plexi Glass Plate

Printmaking is an artistic practice in which the image is incised into a surface and the sunken crevices of the plate hold ink in order to produce the etched image when put through a rolling press. Etching is an engraving technique used in intaglio printmaking. The image must be translated to lines and cross hatching to create shadows and contrast in the print.

The Process of ‘Safe” Intaglio:

Intaglio printing is traditionally done on copper or zinc plates using acid to create the crevices, but plexi glass is a safe alternative for young students.

The line work needs to be cut into the plate using an etching tool. Using the etching needle the artist engraves various hollow sockets onto the surface of the plate which forms convex shapes into which the ink can submerge. The ink is applied to the surface by wiping or dabbing the plate, as an attempt to press in as much ink as possible into the recessed grooves. The plate is then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove the excess ink. The final smooth wipe is often done on stacks of newspaper or in old phone books. This technique leaves ink only in the incisions on the plate, clearing the negative space. Once the plate is centred on the metal plate of the press, a damp piece of paper is placed on top of the plate. This allows the damp paper to be squeezed down into the grooves created, receiving the colour of the ink. The plate and paper are covered by a thick blanket to ensure an even pressure is distributed when going through the rolling press. The blanket is then lifted, revealing the paper and the printed image.

Jasmine Bhullar, “Shattered Dreams Plate,” Ryerson University, 2018.

On this plate, we can see the darker incisions are working to create depth and contrast in the image itself. This is accomplished by placing thin lines close to each other to create a darker area, because more ink will sink in. The deeper into the plate the incisions are made, the darker the outcome will be; the closer the lines are placed, the greater structure and form those objects will have. The artist has sketched a quote, in black letter script, on the right side of the plate. The image of the eye in the upper left corner has many dimensions, and the dream catcher captured in that eye elude to a bigger picture, something that is open to interpretation, beyond the artist’s intent. The shattered bottle has a lot of negative space, giving it that empathic empty feel, whereas the hand above is simply pouring the human brain into the glass.

Jasmine Bhullar, “Shattered Dreams 2/6,” Ryerson University, 2018.


The shading on the finger nails and the hand has intricate line work creating motion and realism. The image etched into the plate tells the story of the artist’s most intimate moments, but forces the viewer to look within themselves as well. It is clear, from the black ink still present in the crevices, of the plate that the plate has been used, and there was a print series produced. The print produced by this plate has a clear cut design with all the lines place in the right formation. On the left side of the image, it is clear that the plate was not fully cleared of the access ink, but overall adds an interesting look to the work. The edges of the paper tell that the paper has been dampened for the printed process, and the incision of the border on the page marks the pressure of the rolling press through which it went. On the bottom of the print the artist stamp states that this print is the second print in a six part series that is titled “Shattered Dreams.”


Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to Use Your EyesRoutledge, 2000.

© Copyright 2018 Bhullar, Jasmine, Shattered Dreams Plate, Ryerson University, 2018

© Copyright 2018 Bhullar, Jasmine, Shattered Dreams Print 2/6, Ryerson University, 2018

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