Softground etching lines look different from hard ground lines in that they are crumbly-looking rather than wiry and aren’t even from end to end. Moreover, tonal areas resembling pencil shading can be made and impressions from flat objects such as fabric, paper, foil can be achieved through the medium. Softground is essentially beeswax, mixed with petroleum jelly or tallow and a small amount of asphaltum; the wax and petroleum jelly or tallow retains the softness of the ground, to allow for a crisp impression of anything pressed into it.
The character of the line change depending on the amount of pressure used in drawing. More pressure removes more wax, so where the artist pressed harder the tooth-creating marks are bigger and closer together than those in the areas where only light pressure was used. Using coarsely grained paper gives coarse-textured lines and fine paper fine lines. In general, soft ground lines look like lines made by the drawing instrument – a clutch-pencil, HB pencil, ballpoint pen or any other object on which pressure can be applied.