A picture is worth a thousand words, and it seems there are a thousand ways to make a picture. Pencil drawings, charcoal sketches, digital creations, are just a few ways illustrations come to life in our favorite books. One of the oldest methods of illustration is etching. Etching is a complex art in which images are engraved on a soft metal, then transferred to paper. It is a labor-intensive process, and printmakers take a great deal of pride in their work. Rather than reading a step-by-step account of the process, you can watch these three videos to learn from the masters themselves.
(The image above is an etching by Günter Grass and can be found in the limited edition of his Drawings and Words 1954-1977. You can also browse our etching collection here.)
This first video provides the most in-depth overview of the process and history on the art of etching. It is presented by Edinburgh Print Makers, which means you get to learn all about the timeless practice of etching from a man with a great Scottish accent. You’re welcome.
This second video from the National Museum of Wildlife Art provides a great outline on how these beautiful illustrations go from metal to paper, as well as information on the tools, time, and thought etching requires. Printmaker Tom Woodhouse explains the etching technique.
For a short glimpse at etching from start to finish without the narrative, check out this fun video of a tiger print. This video is mesmerizing in that it condenses several weeks worth of work into a short, four minute clip.