A photopolymer etching is hand made print created from a steel plate with a photo sensitive coating. It is also known as photogravure, a photo etching, or a photo intaglio print.
An image is printed on the face of the plate with a calibrated ink jet printer. That black ink acts as a resist when exposed to ultraviolet light. Where the light exposes the surface, the photo-emulsion hardens and becomes water resistant. Where the light is inhibited by different densities of black ink the surface is protected from hardening, the depth dependent on the amount of light that penetrates the ink. The protected areas are water soluble and easily wash off of the plate’s surface, leaving an image etched into the plate.
Unlike traditional etching methods which use asphalt as a resist, nitric acid to etch and several solvents in the process, this non-toxic process only uses light and water! What could be better than that?
The plate is then coated with viscous etching ink, filling all the recesses created by the etching process. The surface of the plate is then carefully wiped, leaving ink in the etched portions. The plate is then placed on the bed of an etching press, and moistened fine art paper is laid onto the plate. Felt etching blankets are lowered onto the plate and paper and the bed is rolled under a heavy high pressure roller. The blankets force the paper into the recesses in the plate picking up the ink to create the print. The print is completely permanent and takes on a warmth and beauty that is not present in any other photographic process.