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Characteristics of paper suitable for etching.
By Graham Brown from R.K. Burt

Paper is defined as follows:- "A substance made in the form of thin sheets or leaves from rags, straw, bark, wood or other fibrous material for various uses."

Paper is made from fibre that has been beaten until each individual fibre is separated. This is then mixed with water until it resembles a soup. A sieve-like screen is passed through, and lifted from the liquid. As the water drains away a sheet of matted fibre is left upon the surface of the screen - this is paper.

Since AD 105 when Tsai Lun (a Chinese credited with the invention of paper) first employed this method, little has changed. The fibre formation of paper is still accomplished by basically, the same procedure. Genuine parchments, vellums, rice paper and papyrus are not truly classed as paper.

It is important when selecting paper to consider how it will affect the image. The finest papers will complement, enhance and bring out the best qualities in your subject. If you experiment by printing the same plate with a number of different papers, it will become apparent how crucial your choice is.

Generally speaking, paper suitable for etching needs to be very versatile. It has to cope with multi-plate printing. i.e. several passes though the press whilst damp and under great pressure. Therefore, it must be dimensionally stable, absorbent and extremely durable. Other requirements include internal sizing, acid free, buffered for longevity and light-fastness (i.e. colour should not change when exposed to light).

The five most important factors influencing choice of paper are quality, surface, shade, strength and cost.

Despite various uncontrollable imperfections present in hand/mould made paper, such as thickness, squareness, and weight, it is excellent for all types of printmaking. It takes ink well and softens evenly when wet. However, please remember that the more delicate, unsized waterleaf papers should be handled with care when damp. The cheaper papers such as Bockingford, Canaletto and even inexpensive drawing paper can be used for proofing. The more expensive, heavier mould made papers are usually reserved for the edition.

At R.K. Burt, as well as the cheaper papers, we stock a number of papers which possess qualities specifically designed for etching as well as other printmaking techniques.

  • Arches 88 Mould made 100% cotton, smooth, watermarked, unsized.

  • RKB Arches Specially made for R.K. Burt. Only available with a smooth surface. 100% cotton . watermarked.

  • Velin Arches Blanc mould made 100% cotton, watermarked, medium tooth with a pronounced grain. Also available in black.

  • BFK Rives Blanc mould made 100% cotton, watermarked, smoother and less sized than Velin Arches. Also available in black and 3 colours.

  • Hahnemühle German etching papers. Woodfree quality, medium textured surface watermarked. Available in white and natural shades.

  • Zerkall German etching papers. Unsized Woodfree, medium tooth.

  • Moulin du Gue Mould made 85% cotton 15% linen. patchy look, hand made in appearance, large deckles, wet strength added. Watermarked.

  • Fabriano Rosaspina 60% cotton mould made, slight texture, watermarked. Available in 2 shades

  • Fabriano Tiepolo 100% cotton mould made, more texture than Rosaspina.

  • Fabriano Umbria Hand made 100% cotton, light weight, 4 deckle edges, water marked. Available in 2 shades

  • Fabriano 5 Mould made 50% cotton, very white, available in 2 surfaces, watermarked. Suitable for many printmaking techniques.

  • Somerset 100% cotton mould made, watermarked Available in 3 finishes - Satin, Velvet and Textured - Satin is very smooth flat finish. Velvet is very lightly textured medium tooth. Available in various shades including the renowned ‘TP’ (Tom Phillips) soft white shade.

  • R.K.Burt & Company Ltd
    57 Union Street
    London SE1 1SG
    Tel: (44) (0) 171 407 6474
    Fax: (44) (0) 171 403 3672

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