What Is An Aquatint ?

Posted by Fine Rare Prints 04/02/2015 2 Comment(s) Antique Print Tips,


An aquatint is an artwork that was made using a printing plate on which the image was etched by acid and etching tools.


Aquatinting produces prints with many delightful variations of shading.

Aquatinting is related to engraving and etching and uses acid to make marks in metal printing plates.


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An aquatint begins with a copper or zinc plate covered in powdered resin. The artist heats the plate gently to melt the resin, which forms a fine very slightly bumpy coating. Next the artist dips the the plate in acid. The acid eats through the resin most where the resin is thinnest and then erodes the printing plate. This produces an even, speckled appearance to the plate giving aquatint prints their characteristic look.
The artist then etches the outline of his picture, and may also cover some parts of the plate with wax so they do not hold ink (and leave the paper white). The artist then puts the plate in the acid bath again, progressively stopping out (protecting from acid) any areas that have achieved the designed tonality. These tones, combined with the limited line elements, give aquatints a distinctive, watery look - hence the name "aquatint". The artist the washes and dries the plate and is ready to use it for printing.
Aquatint prints are relatively rare compared to prints made by engravings,etchings or lithography, as the process was relatively difficult and time consuming.
Here is an aquatint from 1807 by William Daniell of a betel nut palm tree:



 Betel Palm Tree  antique aquatint by William Daniell
​Here is a very high quality aquatint from the 1850s by by Henry Alken:
 Shooting, aquatint by Henry Alken


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2 Comment(s)

Monica O'Brien:
16/12/2016, 09:14:50 PM

I have a Ludovico Carracci aquatint engraving circa 1880. It has a mother (Virgin Mary?) and child, animal in stable, and boy? holding a banner possibly with letters "ECCE HCMO". I would like to know more about this.

Fine rare Prints:
30/05/2017, 06:01:36 PM

Hi Monica, Sounds good. We'd have to see photos to help. Please follow instructions here : http://www.finerareprints.com/valuation-of-antique-prints

Joan Crossley:
06/03/2017, 01:54:42 PM

I have a print called Ladies Bathing. I was told it was CIRCA 1895 German Aquatint Rmaliti with frame. Do you have any idea where I can find more info

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 07:32:05 PM

Please go to our page for appraisals under our Customer Service menu, or http://www.finerareprints.com/valuation-of-antique-prints

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