A short film by Norman Ackroyd demonstrating the art of etching printmaking and the use of “The Infernal Method” or Sugar Lifting.

I love watching artists and craft masters at work. This week I discovered a video by Norman Ackroyd – A Master Printmaker who works from his studio in London. The below video “Norman Ackroyd, The Infernal Method” demonstrates an Etching Technique used to create a very “painterly” style of prints by using The Infernal Method or “Sugar Lifting”.

The video is amazing! Norman is clearly in love with the technique and the beauty of print making. The video is about 30 minutes long so kick back with your favourite drink and be inspired by a master at work.

What is Sugar Lifting?

Sugar Lifting is a printmaking technique that is akin to etching. Printmakers use a mixture of water, sugar and black gouache paint to create a formula which is painted onto copper or zink plates.

Once this is fully dried a wax compound called ‘Hard Ground’ is melted and rolled carefully over the plate and again left to cool and dry.

Once the hard ground has cooled and dried the printing plate is submerged into a warm bath of water and left to soak. The hard ground protects the uncovered plate whilst the water dissolves the sugar. As the sugar dissolves, it expands and bites into the plate revealing the etch.

The etched plate can now be printed through a press on damp edition paper.

Sugar Lifting Prints I like

Normal Ackroyd. Balmory Castle
Normal Ackroyd. Balmory Castle http://www.normanackroyd.com/prints/

Balmoral Castle by Normal Ackroyd

I first came across Norman Ackroyd in Printing Matter magazine and was blown away by the texture and life he brings into his work. Some print images can be a bit static but Dan’s work really captures the energy of the locations that inspire his work.

I am unsure whether this print uses Sugar Lifting but is an etch nether-the-less. It depicts Balmoral Castle and despite being a dark print still shows a sense of light and atmosphere. It’s stunning!

Sugar Lifting Printing Example by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso. Tree in the storm, with flight towards a church. Mougins, 15th August, 1968 (III). 
Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 70.597

Tree in the storm, with flight towards a church by Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was introduced to Sugar Lifting by the printer Roger Lacourière. Picasso mastered the technique throughout his lifetime and became the main architect for the variant. Picasso used this technique for his most notable etchings.

Tree in the storm, with a flight towards a church is a great example of how this technique can be used in different styles. The tree here is quite expressive and bold, whereas the characters are delicate and detailed.


I am itching to have a go at this printing technique and feel it would really suit some of my sketchbook work I have done in the past, especially the sketches I did in Cornwall. I feel the equipment maybe out of my reach just yet but it’s certainly something I am going to review and see if my current printing press would cope. That is the frustrating part of diving into a new technique or hobby is the doors it opens and avenues you can go down that you can’t afford to play in. One for the journal though!


Normal Ackroyd. The Infernal Method

Normal Ackroyd. Balmory Castle

Pablo Picasso. Tree in the storm, with flight towards a church.


Last Updated

Share the love:


How can I help you?