Making a Dry Point Etched Print

Two dry etched prints from the same plate

To make a simple DryPoint Etching print you will just need a small plate made from clear, hard plastic such as Perspex. The type of material scratches easily and this is the reason for its use as an etched plate. The tools for scratching the image can be any sharp object such as screwdriver, blade or a wire nail. There are specific tolls of this craft like scribes of different thickness but these are for the more advanced craftsperson but they are by no means compulsory or must have tools. Every scratch you make will be replicated on the printed paper when the plate is used. Being able to imagine the finished work as you do the etching is a skill you will learn with practice.

What is unusual about Dry Etching is that no material is removed from the plate. The scrapes and cuts cause burrs on either side of the scrape. This results in a somewhat blurred effect, or softer lines in the image. Other processes remove material from the plate or (as in collograph) add material to the plate.

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Intaglio Drypoint Guide

Intaglio: Acrylic-Resist Etching, Collagraphy, Engraving, Drypoint, Mezzotint
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Dry Point Etch Printing Guide

Dry Point Etching Plate

The prints are easy to make as the plate is coated with paint and then pressed to the paper to make the image, If you wish to make more than one print then simply repress another sheet of paper. The images will lighten in tone if you do not recoat the plate with new paint. A roller can be used to add paint but a brush or sponge will also serve. If you wish to print in a different color you just wash and dry the plate and start again with the new color.

With practice you can produce images of several colors from the one ‘master’ plate. The plate used for the swirling image shown above was just 2 inches by 6 inches in size with a thickness of less than one eight of an inch.

Dry Point Etching alternatives

There are other methods to produce a print from a plate such as Collographic printing, wood block printing, printing stamps, Mezzotint and Intaglio. Collograph printmaking and Woodblock Printing are different to Dry Point Etch although the prints can all be produced by pressing the plate to the paper. A press can be used with Collograph but the woodblock will be too bulky to use in the press and will need to have manual pressure applied to make the woodblock image. The Dry Etching plate is usually a very thin piece of material and is suited to go through a printing press although they are usually used for manual printing.


Intaglio Set

Printmaking Tool Set- Intaglio Set with Roulette
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Dry point printing tools and techniques

Intaglio Printing

Drypoint is the most direct method of all the Intaglio techniques used for printing from plates and it is the easiest to master. There are numerous printing methods that come under the one heading of Intaglio Printing which means engraving or cutting of metals. Metals are no longer the only medium used and drypointing methods can use a selection of plates from plastic and metal to manmade materials. A shiny, clean, clear plate works best and all you then need is a scratching tool. A hardened steels needle is the most recognized tool for this work and it usually has a wooden handle for ease of use. 

Dry Point Etching Burrs

Specialist tools such as needles with diamond tips or sapphire points will never require sharpening. Special effect can be achieved by running a spiked wheel across the plate. A sharp nail works as well as anything and how you wield it will give the plate its definition. Different lines can be made by tilting the nail at different angles as this causes the burr to be different on each side of the cut. This is an important technique to master as the burr will hold ink as readily as the scratch or cut in the plate.

One of the advantages of Dry Point Etching is that you can use tracing paper to transfer a detailed work onto the plate. Another technique common in Drypoint work is cross hatching of areas of the plate to give darkened patches to the finished piece, which adds a three dimensional  perspective. Dry Point Etching is an easy craft to take on and enjoy for young and old alike.

Drypoint Needles

Diamond Tipped Scribe