Art Principles and History

Art Fundamentals

What is the difference between engraving and etching?

Both engraving and etching are forms of intaglio printmaking. To make an engraving, an artist uses a sharp, pointed tool called a burin to cut lines into a metal plate. This is called incising. The metal plate is then inked, and the ink is forced into the grooves made by the burin. The plate can then be pressed. Drypoint is similar to engraving, though a needle is used rather than a burin.

Etching is slightly different. To make an etching, an artist covers a metal plate with an acid-resistant layer of ground. Rather than carve directly into the plate, the artist draws into the ground, revealing small areas of exposed metal underneath. The plate is then submerged into an acid bath. The acid eats away at the exposed metal, creating grooved lines in the shape of the drawn image. The longer the plate remains in the acid, the deeper the grooves will be and the more ink they will hold. Now that the metal plate bears the artist’s image, it can be pressed and the image can be transferred to paper. Aquatint is a form of etching that allows the artist to create different areas of tone or value. Developed in the eighteenth century, aquatint involves heating a layer of rosin on a metal plate before placing it in the acid bath. Acid-resistant varnish is used to create areas of white on the final printed image.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App