Mark making

Engravers used a range of techniques and tools to make various marks on the metal printing plate. When printed, these marks appeared as different types of line, each with their own identifying characteristics.

Large tonal areas such as skies are often described with multiple cross-hatched lines.

Etched lines are drawn through a waxy ground onto the metal plate. The plate is dipped in acid which ‘bites’ the lines into the metal. Etched lines have blunt, rounded ends.

Etching tools: Colour and Line exhibition detail
Etching tools
after Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Dartmouth Cove' 1827
after Joseph Mallord William Turner
Dartmouth Cove 1827
Intaglio print on paper
image: 165 x 232 mm
Purchased 1986

An engraved line is cut directly into the metal printing plate, using a sharp tool called a burin. This produces a fine line which tapers to a point at the end.

Engraving tools: Colour and Line exhibition detail
Engraving tools
after Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Bass Rock, engraved by William Miller' 1826
after Joseph Mallord William Turner
Bass Rock, engraved by William Miller 1826
Engraving on paper
image: 171 x 254 mm
Purchased 1986

Mezzotints are also made on metal plates, but the process uses tiny dots to create areas of tone instead of lines. The image is worked from dark to light, and has a characteristic velvety softness.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Ship and Cutter' circa 1825
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Ship and Cutter circa 1825
Intaglio print on paper
image: 154 x 222 mm
Purchased 1989