Spit-Bite And Photopolymer…And Pigment.

The next step in this little trilogy of working directly on photopolymer adds pigment to the spit-biting solutions used in the previous post.

Consider the advantage of not only being able to etch the plate as one would with a metal plate and acid, but also be able to utilize the photosensitive properties that remain intact after the spit biting, AND can achieve a litho-like reticulating texture!

To start the experiment, I burned an aquatint pattern into the plate prior to spit-biting. You could use a regular screen for a traditional look…or use an alternative pattern (that’s a whole other post). Like a traditional spit-bite, the aquatint pattern will give the bite an underlaying structure to hold ink.

The etching solution is best slightly favoring alcohol in its ratio. Since adding pigment will take care of your truly dark areas, you don’t want to etch too heavily in the initial biting process. More alcohol will also make the solution evaporate faster.

For the pigment I used ordinary copy toner and a splash of dish soap to break the surface tension of the water, which will allow the toner to fully incorporate into the solution.

Like previous experiments, I did actually try this process without first burning in an aquatint pattern, which created a kind of flooded riverbed pattern. The deep, open-etched area had that nice touch of the halo printing that open etches do…dark, juicy edges with a feathering out toward the center of the void.

Timing takes a bit of finesse and a whole lot of guess work/experimentation. While etching, be sure to wear a respirator and work in a well-ventilated area (while still protected from ambient light). The plate can off-gas some strong smells when spit-biting.

The exposure was what I would usually use for an exposure, but the plate only needs to be open to the light, no vacuum or glass plate is needed.

The development is the same, as there are parts that will still need to wash away. It might not be a bad idea to use a separate developing tray for this particular process, as the toner (or whatever pigment you use) will pollute to solution and potentially stain the tray.

Follow through with the usual heat set and curing exposure, and then you’re ready to print!

These experiments were done between 2013 and 2014.


The content presented here is a documentation of my own experiments. While I can account for my own actions and safety, I cannot account for yours. IF you decide to attempt or tinker with similar experiments to my own, PLEASE focus your utmost attention to safety and critical thinking. I am not responsible, in any way, for misunderstandings or mishaps resulting in material or physical harm. Proceed at your own risk.

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