Intaglio Printing with Tanja Softic


This image (above) shows the first of the four plates that were used to print my painting Oculus. Here we’ve just run the first copper plate through the press and lifted the paper with the first plate/first color on it.

The technique used to create this plate is called spit-bite, which is a version of aquatint. Nearly full-strength acid is painted (or poured, in this case) on the ground, creating the translucent, watercolor-like effect. Note that the paper is still held under the roller so that we can replace the plate (on the template drawn on the press bed) and keep the registration correct.


Here we’ve just printed the second plate/color (green). The picture was taken when we had already removed the plate from the press bed, so you can see the registration template we drew on the press bed. The technique used to create this image is called aquatint, which is an intaglio process in which tones (rather than just lines) can be etched and rich darks (as well as transparent tints) can be produced; often resembling a wash drawing.


In this photo (above), New York master printer Kathy Caraccio (in apron) is discussing the finer points of registration with two of our student helpers (at the University of Richmond), Natsumi Oba and Joelle Francht. You can see that we’ve printed three layers (the third plate with white grid marks is still on the press).


The fourth and final plate, with the small red square detail, bee image and the umbrella structure is printed. The completed print is ready for drying. Note the offset marks from the white grid that was printed from the third plate. In intaglio, color is usually printed "wet on wet because we print on moist paper. So some of the ink layers from the previous plates are lost to offset.This has to be taken into consideration when developing the plates and mixing inks.

All photos in this article were taken by Mark T. Burrell.


A native of Sarajevo, Tanja Softic studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts (University of Sarajevo) from 1984 to 1988. In 1989 she was awarded a scholarship to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she received her MFA. After teaching for several years at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in 2000 she joined the University of Richmond’s Department of Art and Art History, where she currently teaches. From 1992 until 1995, she worked on a series of five handmade artists books, using etching and letterpress, that are included in the rare book collections of the New York Public Library, Library of Congress and Boston Public Library.

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