Printmaking has all of the

Found at: zaibatsu.circumlunar.space:70/~losthalo/nusuth/nusuth-20190103a.txt

Printmaking has all of the excitement of gambling without its guilt
and ruin. --Samuel Palmer

                                 \\\Spit Biting\\\

In intaglio printmaking there are  a wide variety of techniques for
etching areas  of plates  in order to  produce tones  when printed,
including  aquatint (using  either  traditional resin  or the  more
expedient  spraypaint),  soft  ground,  white  ground,  sugar  lift
aquatint, the  list goes  on. Ruth  Leaf's book  will give  you all
sorts of details on intaglio  etching methods including recipes for
grounds  and stop-out  resist and  how to  mix up  white ground  if
you're interested.  But by  far the  most risky  and thus  the most
interesting is 'spit biting'.

Etching  produces areas  that will  hold ink  in a  metal plate  by
removing (biting) selective areas out  of the plate surface with an
acid/water  mixture. The  depressions  thus created  then hold  ink
while it is wiped  away from the areas that are  to print white. It
can produce lines or texture depending  on the method and how it is
used. You  protect the areas  you don't  want 'bitten' by  the acid
with some  sort of greasy material,  there are a variety  of these,
usually referred to as 'grounds'  - hard ground, soft ground, white
ground, etc.

In spit biting  some sort of resist is applied  to the plate first,
usually aquatint  resin or the afore-mentioned  lazy man's stippled
spraypaint. Spit biting involves the  direct application of acid to
the  plate, usually  in some  sort of  carrier medium  to keep  the
strong acid from immediately etching  the plate too fast - although
fine control of the etching really isn't the idea with spit biting.
You spit bite a plate to  add 'texture' or randomness to the image,
to allow the process or nature or  the universe to have some say in
the image rather than controlling everything.

So if you're talking about nitric  acid etching of zinc plates (the
most  typical intaglio  etching  combination) the  bath for  normal
etching would be mixed up as a  10:1 or more water:acid ratio - 10%
or less acid. This keeps things slow and controllable. You put your
plate into the bath and  you gently remove the effervescent bubbles
with  a  feather  as  they  show  up.  In  spit  biting  the  ratio
is  obviously  not  usually  as  controlled  and  usually  'hotter'
concentrations of acid are used,  up to and including full strength
acid. If  you do this  and f*ck up your  image, don't go  crying to
your instructor  - that's a 'laugh  with you or at  you' situation,
you did it to yourself bub.

Beyond the  randomness of spit  biting you  can also 'open  bite' a
plate after lines or texture have been produced on it, allowing the
acid to randomly reduce or remove  some of the image or texture you
have already  produced with  no stop-out or  ground to  protect it.
Burn, baby,  burn. This  can have  very good  or very  bad results,
depending on how much you love chaos.

So the  name of spit  biting comes  from, you probably  guessed it,
using saliva  to dilute  the acid  applied and make  it a  bit more
viscous so  it will stay where  you want it. Gross,  right? Ah, the
old days, they worked with what they had at hand.

Our instructor  relayed from her  student days of  that printmakers
would pass a jar around the studio  for everyone to spit a bit into
it to  provide someone  enough saliva  to make up  a spit  bite for
etching a plate  rather than using the plain old  gum arabic. While
things like that  may seem disgusting to some, the  creation of art
involves doing  things and dealing  with things that  regular folks
shy away from. Etching involves  acids, oily grounds, solvents, and
other smelly and potentially toxic  substances. It also conjures up
images  of witches  gathering  strange substances  for the  brewing
of  potions  I suppose,  or  mad  scientists  locked away  in  dark

Thus if you ever want to try  out spit biting an intaglio plate, my
most  important piece  of advice  is: don't  anger the  Printmaking
Gods, whatever you do.

Some other  time I will  have to share the  tale of cookies  as the
solution to your lithography stone troubles.

                                     NO CARRIER