I don't really draw, and I dislike using ink as a resist (it just doesn't cooperate with me), so for etching, I stick to printed black and white digital images with a toner resist, which is what I did for the metal above. (You can use a household iron to melt laser printer toner onto metal, which works as a dandy resist for etchant--here are links for how to do it using glossy magazine pages, using old-fashioned transparency sheets, or Press n Peel blue sheets.) Lately I have been using overhead transparency sheets from Office Max and they work beautifully:
from Wikipedia. The image copyright info states, "This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Chhe at the wikipedia project. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: Chhe grants anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law."
www.pixlr.com (a free website) to edit my photographs--it is similar to Photoshop, which is the first photo-editing program I learned so I am comfortable with this. You could create the same effects with www.ribbet.com, or www.pickmonkey.com (I'm sure there are others as well.) To create an image suitable for etching from a regular photograph, first I crop it if necessary, then I desaturate it (i.e., turn it into black and white), invert it if needed (reversing the black and white, like a negative), and then turn up the contrast and brightness until all the grays are gone (gray tones will not work with the toner resist method):
- You don't want any shadows in your pictures, as they will just be giant black or white blobs in your final image, so it is important to avoid bright light/shadow with these pictures--use indirect light, or photograph only under a very cloudy sky if outside.
- Additionally, there must be sufficient contrast between your subject and the background for you to be able to get them to solid black and white without losing too much detail. It doesn't really matter whether it's a light subject/dark background, or vice versa, because you can always invert the image if you need to. (This makes photographs with lots of different colors in them generally unsuitable--when desaturated, you end up with a lot of gray).
- If you are taking pictures of growing plants (as opposed to taking cuttings and arranging them at your leisure), anything immediately behind them, like a fence, or a wall, or any other object, is going to end up in your photograph--when you try to reduce it to black and white, you may end up with extraneous lines and shapes that may interfere with your silhouette. Airbrushing that kind of stuff out with your photo editor is a huge pain, so try to find a setup with a blank background behind it and no other objects (or take your own improvised background with you if you're out scouting for roadside plants.
- Lastly, if you find some plant specimens that you want to cut or pick, to arrange later, if they aren't dark or light enough for your background, you can always spray paint them.