Intaglio Toner Wash

So this is a new technique to me that I learned about from Carrie Lingscheit’s instagram feed. This technique utilizes the same idea as toner wash in lithography, but instead of the toner creating the marks that are etched and inked up, the toner is used as a resist for the ferric chloride in copper plate intaglio.

When I asked Carrie where she learned this technique or if she created it, she said she did not think she created it, but could remember starting to experiment with it in graduate school. As far as I know, she’s the originator because I’d never heard of it before and a few colleagues hadn’t either.

The basics of the process are that you create a mixture of toner, water and a few drops of liquid soap to break the water’s surface tension allowing the water and toner to mix. Once mixed, you paint it over the surface. Initially I allowed it to try dry on its own, not air movement manipulation.

Once the toner is dry, you have to heat it to attach it to the surface of the copper. Carrie did this with a lighter underneath while the copper sat on a baking rack. I used a heat gun about an inch or so above the surface as I moved it around. I could also see a good hot plate with a aluminum roasting tray over it building up enough heat to melt the toner.

But you have to be careful, my plate would get hot enough that I could not pick it up with my bare hands. I found the toner, when fully melted, gained a sheen, like melted plastic (because it is plastic).

With the toner melted, you can drop it for a single etch or use hardground to etch it like an aquatint.

Here is my initial attempt.

The result was awesome and I wanted to try more. So next I used the standard process that Carrie had described to create an 8″x10″ plate that I etched for 20 min.

Since then I have been doing a series of experiments on small sample plates to explore new ways to manipulate the toner wash. Below are a series of galleries showing each plate at each step.

Wet plates:

Dry plates:

Heat set plates:

Etched plates:


The results are pretty varied but each creates unique marks and gives me new ideas on how I can manipulate the toner further and create imagery of all different sorts.

As a printmaker, the dissemination of imagery and information is in my blood as most others. So I created a PDF instruction sheet that Carrie looked over. I have attached it here for anyone else to use to explore toner wash intaglio.

toner wash handout

If you find some interesting results, please email me with them. I’d love to see what others come up with using this process.


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