From the engraving on the copper plate through the acid bath to the printing process in the press

Published on January 21, 2016


Artist and illustrator Ugo Gattoni presents his first drypoint etching, made in the Urdla print facility in Villeurbanne (France).

Edited in December 2015 by Sold Art online art gallery, this dreamlike composition featuring some references to his girlfriend Sybille’s anatomy, as well as Escher’s perspective work.

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Ugo Gattoni was born in 1988 in Vitry-sur-Seine (France). After obtaining a graphic design degree in 2010 (with subjects such as publishing, visual communication, and typography), he devoted himself to a large-scale personal project. During six months, he worked on a 10 m long and 1.2 m high fresco in rotring ink, resulting in an exhibition entitled “Ultra copains” at Galerie Surprise. Ugo Gattoni’s work stood out thanks to this project, and his book “Bicycle”, published in 2012 by Nobrow on the occasion of the London Olympics. He collaborated with major brands such as Hermes, Rolex, Pierre Frey, Ruinart, Céline, the New York Times.


The starting point of his drawings is often a story, which is developed along the project. Ugo Gattoni always grants careful attention to the many details in his drawings. He uses his imagination to give birth to surreal scenes mixing body parts, still life, and architecture. Besides paper, Ugo is a curious artist working on other techniques, other materials, with a particular interest for arts and craft.

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A few days before Ugo Gattoni started working in the print shop of the URDLA, Vincent Brunet (copperplate printer) washed the copper plate with calcium carbonate to remove grease. He then laid a thin coat of acid-resistant engraving varnish and then smoked the plate with a torch lighter, to make the ground darker so the exposed metal is more visible.

Meanwhile, Ugo prepared a sketch of his composition, which he placed over the copper plate before engraving it. He quickly adapted himself to the use of the stylus. The copper was exposed, the first lines started appearing. At the end of the first day, the outline of his drawing was engraved. He then determined on his sketch the direction of light and the textures of its elements.


After two days at URDLA, Ugo went back to his studio in Paris to continue this etching. The etching step lasted a total of seven days. When finished, he returned to the print shop so that Vincent prepared the plate for printing. Some varnish touch-ups helped him protect the areas he had scratched by mistake. The bite step could now be initiated; the plate was soaked in an acid bath (ferric chloride) to enhance the areas without varnish. The longer the plate is washed, the longer the acid enhances the width and the depth of the line. After checking this operation with a microscope, Vincent removed the varnish with a solvent. The plate was now ready to receive ink.


Vincent dipped the paper into a clean water bath for better absorption of the ink on the press. He prepared his ink on a heated support to make it more fluid, and then filled the
plate in ink by hand to make it penetrate into all the grooves. Using a tarlatan, he removed the excess of ink to keep it only in the hollow parts. The plate was placed on the pins of the press plate. The wet paper was gently deposited on top, using small pliers.

The press was turned on. When the sheet was removed, the etching and the contour of the plate appeared.


Ugo checked the first print, which allowed the copperplate printer to change the intensity of the dark colour. The print order was signed by the artist to validate the printing process. Vincent could then proceed with the printing of the 30 copies based on that one. Each etching was placed vertically for several days for drying, and then flat one on top of each other to avoid any undulation.

The artist signed and numbered each work and each certificate of authenticity. Available exclusively on Soldart.

The six-minute documentary shows the creation process of this surreal etching, as well as the artisan printer’s know-how.


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