image: The Prints of Félix Buhot: Impressions of City of and Sea National Gallery of Art Home Page
Biography of
Félix-Hilaire Buhot
Buhot’s Experimental Techniques
Landing in England
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A Pier in England
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The Passage
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Exhibition Information
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À la poupée (literally, “with the doll”) describes a method of inking intaglio prints in which two or more inks of different colors are selectively applied to different parts of a single copperplate. The inked plate is then printed in a single pass through the press. The method takes its name from the poupée (doll), the small ball-shaped wad of fabric that is used to ink the plate.

Aquatint is a tonal printing process. The preparation for aquatint consists of a porous ground, usually created by sprinkling powdered rosin liberally and evenly over a copperplate and then heating the plate from below to liquefy the powder and fuse it to the copper. When this prepared copperplate is dipped into an acid etching bath, the minute irregularities in the ground allow the acid to bite into the plate in an overall pattern that, when inked, prints as tone.

Burnishing is the scraping away of roughened areas on a plate with a piece of either curved or straight hardened steel. The tool is called a burnisher.

Drypoint is an intaglio process in which a sharp needle is used to scratch a line directly onto a metal plate. The metal that is displaced and retained on either side of this line, called burr, holds more ink than the incised line itself, creating a rich, velvety tone, characteristic of this technique. The burr quickly breaks off during the printing process, and only a few very strong impressions can be made before the plate wears out.

Etching is an intaglio printmaking process in which the design is worked onto a copperplate through a protective, acid-resistant ground, usually with an etching needle. The plate, still covered with the ground, is then dipped into an acid bath, which corrodes the exposed areas and creates furrows and troughs that will hold the ink. The depth of the etched lines is controlled by the strength of the acid and the amount of time the plate is exposed to it. After the ground is cleaned off, ink is spread over the surface of the plate and then carefully wiped off until it remains only in the etched lines. The ink is transferred from the incised lines to the sheet of paper by means of a printing press.

Foul bite is when the acid accidentally penetrates the etching ground, creating a spotty appearance. Buhot, like other printmakers, deliberately used foul biting as a tonal effect.

Grounds, hard and soft, are acid-resistant waxy or varnish preparations that are applied to copperplates as part of the etching process. The design is worked through the ground to expose the copperplate beneath. With a hard ground, an etching needle is usually used. With a soft ground, which never hardens completely but remains sticky, a variety of tools can be used to create designs on the prepared plate. The entire plate, still covered by the ground, is then dipped into an acid bath, which corrodes the exposed areas of the plate. The ground is removed before the plate is inked and printed.

Héliogravure is a photomechanical process by which an image is chemically affixed to a metal plate and then etched. Buhot often used this method to transfer an initial drawing onto a plate, which he then worked up using other intaglio methods including etching and aquatint.

Intaglio is an Italian word that describes any printing process in which the ink is held in furrows below the surface of a metal plate and is transferred to paper through the application of pressure, usually from a printing press.

Lithography is a planographic process in which the design is drawn or painted with greasy chalk or ink on the printing surface, traditionally stone. The drawing is then fixed on the stone by applying a solution of water-soluble resin and acid. The surface is moistened and, as grease and water do not combine, the drawn areas repel the water and the untouched parts absorb it. A greasy ink is then applied over the surface with a roller. The wet parts reject the ink while the greasy parts attract it. Paper is then placed over the surface of the stone, and both are passed through a press.

In a transfer lithograph, the design is drawn on paper and then transferred to the printing surface. The drawing is made with lithographic chalk or ink on prepared transfer paper. The paper is dampened and laid face down on the printing surface. Both are passed through the press and gradually the paper soaks off, leaving the greasy drawing adhered to the printing surface. 

Roulette is a tool with a revolving head on which a dotted or lined pattern is incised. It is used directly on the plate to create tone.

Salt lift ground is an etching process, often used with aquatint, in which a solution of ink and salt is painted onto the plate. The plate is then covered with an acid resist ground, dried, and soaked in hot water. The salt solution dissolves, leaving the plate exposed where the design has been painted.

Sandpaper ground is a type of textured aquatint surface created by pressing sandpaper down on a hard wax ground. The particles of sand pierce the ground, leaving pits where the acid can bite the plate.

Soft-ground etching is a process in which a drawing is made on a sheet of textured paper placed on a plate prepared with an etching ground that has tallow added to prevent it from hardening. It is then fixed to the plate by etching.

Spirit ground is a type of aquatint in which the resin is dissolved in alcohol. The solution is then poured over the plate, and, as the alcohol evaporates, a thin layer of resin is left behind.

Spit bite is the direct dropping or splattering of acid onto a plate whereby it attacks areas not made resistant. It is used to create wash effects.

Stop-out is a technique in which an acid resist solution is painted over areas that are to remain free from aquatint or over already aquatinted areas not requiring any further biting.

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