Mixing Soy Wax Litho Ink Soft Ground and test plates

Researchers:  Kevin Pomerleau and Daniel Chiaccio

Date:  April 2015

Degreased Copper Plate (at desired size)
Soy Wax
Graphic Chemical Senefelder’s Crayon Black Lithographic Ink
Ferric Chloride
Hot Plate
Metal Can (that is able to be placed onto a hot plate)
Paint Brush
Table Top thermometer

Instructions for making Soy Wax/Litho Ink Soft Ground from instructions given by visiting artist Marnix Everaert

1. Set hot plate to reach 110° degrees using the table top thermometer to determine the proper temperature.

2. Once at desired temperature, place Degreased Copper Plate, with newsprint underneath, onto hot plate to allow it time to warm to 110°

3. In a metal can, place a mixture of 45% ink and 55% soy wax (by weight – use a digital scale)

4. Place the can, with contents, onto the hot plate and let it sit until soy wax begins to melt (check by sight periodically, slight odor may dissipate)

5. Once wax has started to melt, use a paint brush to mix the ingredients together (the consistency of the mixture should not be to thin, if this occurs check the heat on the hotplate and lower slightly if necessary)

– The consistency of the Soy Wax Litho/Ink Soft Ground should have a thick oil consistency with a relatively slow drip (fig. 1)


fig. 1


6. Once proper consistency is reached, brush several pea sized drops of Soft Ground solution onto the degreased copper plate    (fig. 2)




7. Once soft ground is applied to plate begin to roll it out using a brayer (preferably larger than plate, but can be smaller depending on resources) to receive an evenly distributed coating of soft ground.

– The application of the soft ground should be at a medium thickness.

– If the surface of the plate resembles an orange peel, the coating is too thick

– If the copper is showing through in large visible patches, then the coating is too thin.

– If soft ground begins to break-up your plate maybe to hot or have remaining grease on the plate.

– The surface should have a smooth even coating, with minimal copper visibility (a faint glare of copper is ok/preferable) (fig.3)



fig. 3

8. Once the plate has been evenly coated, remove it from the heat while still on newsprint.

9. The coating of soft ground will begin to visibly dry instantly as the ground turns from a shiny gloss to a smooth matte finish.

10. Allow for 5-10 minutes to cool, then begin to transfer imagery to the plate.  The ground will not dry or harden further unless it is extremely cold, thus the open time for drawing is unlimited.

11.  The ground can be stored in the aluminum can.  It will harden and can be reheated to return it to usable consistency.  It can also be poured into a silicone ice-cube tray and cooled. The cubes of ground are removed from the tray and wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.  With a toothpick inserted into the cube of ground, it can be rubbed across a warmed metal plate and then rolled out with a brayer.

Test Plates


Example 1

Example 1: Image created by drawing on computer paper placed over Soy Wax/Litho Ink Soft Ground coated plate. The Soft Ground for this particular plate was found to be very delicate and easily removed with both touch of hand and pencil, this was due to it’s light application. All unwanted removal of soft ground was covered in stop out (best seen in bottom right corner of right image).



Example 2

Example 2: Print from copper plate (example 1) etched for 25 minutes in Ferric Chloride at 12.5 Baume. Fine line work obtained in background from direct plate drawing. Bleeds of ink in background due to the thin application of the soft ground. Even though the Soft Ground was applied lightly dark clear lines were easily obtained.


Example 3

Example 3: Print from copper plate coated with thick layer of Soft Ground and etched for 25 minutes in Ferric Chloride at 12.5 Baume. The drawing was made with a 6H pencil both through printer paper and directly onto plate. Steel wool was also used directly on the plate, which can be seen throughout the left side and bottom half of the image. The thick application of soft ground was very workable, however more pressure was needed from the artist to obtain distinguishable lines. This coating would not be ideal for those working with a delicate touch.


Example 4

Example 4: Print from copper plate coated in recommended amount of Soft Ground and etched for 25 minutes in Ferric Chloride at 12.5˙ Baume. An assortment of line work and materials at varying pressures were used on this plate to show the versatility of the medium with proper application.

Mixing 12.5˙ Baume Ferric Chloride Mordant