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WPA Collection: Graphic Arts Processes


Three Plate Color Aquatint - An Intaglio Process

         Gentle Death by Daniel Fousek
Three Plate Color Aquatint, 11" x 13 3/4"

The making of a three plate color aquatint is necessarily very complicated. The greatest care must be taken in timing the exposures to the acid, as the slightest variations will materially change the colors. The problems of registry, shrinking of the damp paper, are considerable also. The most practical color chart developed shows 216 different combinations of the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

There are two methods of producing aquatints in color, rubbing different colors on one plate, and having a separate plate for each color, producing innumerable additional variations by overlapping different color values on the color plates, the latter being the process described here. The blue plate is made first, using one or more of the intaglio processes, usually soft ground or pen process. A tiny dent is put at either end of the plate for registry mark. A proof is pulled, dusted with powder cobalt blue, and an offset is made from this proof to the red plate which has been aquatint grounded. The red plate is now bitten. Using a specially constructed chart, a trial proof is marked, showing how many minutes to bite the red plate at any given spot to produce the desired color. The yellow plate is the last one to be made. Both the red and blue proofs are dusted with corresponding colors and offset to the aquatint grounded yellow plate. At this stage we have a record on the yellow plate of all the work that has been done so far on the blue and red plate. Using this specifically constructed chart and a marked proof of the blue plate is a guide, the yellow plate is now bitten to varying depths to produce various color combinations. Tones of aquatint are now added to the blue plate in order to complete the color combinations and the three plates are ready for printing. The yellow plate is printed first with cadmium yellow ink. A pin hole is made in the paper at each of the two registry marks. The red plate is now inked with cadmium red and the two pins with sticks for handles are put through the registry pin holes in the back of the yellow proof, the point resting in the register dents of the red plate. The paper is allowed to slide down the pins to register with the red plate. The pins are withdrawn and the plate is printed. A similar procedure is followed for printing the final plate which is in ultra-marine blue.

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