By which I mean: Baldwin Intaglio Ground, a nontoxic resist created by British printmaker Andrew Baldwin. I've known about it for about a year, but it only became available in the United States recently, at least to my knowledge. I ordered a couple of tubes from Takach Press, and tried it out today. There are lots of things to say about it, both on its own terms and how it compares to the other acrylic-based materials I have been printing with during the last six months.
First of all, here is a link to Mr. Baldwin's YouTube channel, which has lots of very informative and useful tutorials on how to use his etching ground. You are supposed to roll a small amount out on your inking palette, and transfer a thin layer onto your plate, preferably using a brayer the same width as your plate. You roll it on until the speckling is replaced by a smooth layer that covers the copper (or whatever metal you're using).
You can now use the ground as a soft ground or a hard ground. I used it as a hard ground first. For that, you have to heat the rolled up plate to harden and cure the ground. The recommended method is to use a convection oven, though frankly that is quite an expense to ask of most people, even for printmakers who are used to forking out lots of dosh for the smallest item. I used my foil-lined cardboard box with a hairdryer inserted in the top, and left the plate inside with the hairdryer turned to the highest setting for 6 minutes. After cooling and letting the plate sit for 15 minutes, I started drawing in to the ground with my etching needle.
Above is how the plate looked after I'd done the drawing. The brown area is my own stop-out, which I make from equal parts liquid acrylic and GAC 200. I really tried to push the ground by doing lots of different lines: small lines, long swooping lines, scribbles. I etched the plate for fifteen minutes in 38 baume ferric chloride. To strip the ground from the plate, I used the citrus-based non toxic solvent called De-Solv-It. It's not mentioned in any of the instructions for BIG, but luckily it works brilliantly, as you can see here:
The etch looked a little shallow, but when I printed it, it came out like this:
Every mark I made etched perfectly, even the scribbles, which I was sure would underbite or foul bite (they are the darkest marks in the above photo). There's more plate tone than I get with the acrylic resists I've been printing with recently, but my verdict on the BIG hard ground is: excellent for creating fine lines, easy to apply, feels like you're working with a traditional ground when you're drawing into it (it has that waxy feel), and strips easily from the plate. My only concern is that the drying and curing time might be unpredictable -- I think I got it right first time with a bit of beginner's luck. I am teaching a beginner's class in ARE printmaking coming up soon, and I think I'm going to stick with the cheaper, hardware store materials for that. But I am definitely going to keep on using BIG for my own prints, and maybe see if I can master its various possibilities with a view to using it for an intermediate/advanced printmaking class.
This is my studio blog. I also have another blog, Praeterita, which contains more general art-related posts.