The Drypoint Etching Process


Drypoint etching is an intaglio print process using acrylic sheets, aluminium or silver card. This inexpensive, direct and beautiful printmaking technique can produce simple, strong images with emphasis on the texture and quality of line. The intaglio process is when the ink is held in the contours and grooves of the surface of the plate.

Scratching an image into the acrylic plate at a workshop
Scratching an image into the acrylic plate at a workshop

The drypoint etching process starts by scratching with a sharp tool into a plate creating different depths to achieve different sizes of line and texture. In this example you can see this being done on an acrylic plate which can be a little more robust and longer lasting than silver card particular for multiple runs although card is less expensive.

Tracing an existing image on a workshop
Tracing an existing image on a workshop

Although my own work is all original work, on my workshops people can using tracing paper to help transfer an image they wish to copy if necessary. If using acrylic, however, because the plate is transparent, people can place it over the image to be copied and trace directly onto the plate using the scratching tool. This helps overcome the confidence levels so that people with less artistic skills can enjoy the discovery of printmaking just as well as those more artistically gifted!

Cleaning the ink off the plate at a workshop
Cleaning the ink off the plate at a workshop

The plate is covered in ink and then the ink is cleaned off to the desired consistency. This is usually done using kitchen towel or scrim with a slow wiping action over several minutes.

An inked acrylic plate (right) and finished print (left)
An inked acrylic plate (right) and finished print (left)

Good quality etching paper needs to be soaked for some time before printing. The inked plate is then placed on the printing press on top of tissue paper then the damp paper is placed on top with more tissue paper. The press is then wound so that the roller moves evenly over the plate transferring the image to the paper. Once removed the paper is then blotted and dried flat over several days. 

Adding a simple 2nd colour on a workshop
Adding a simple 2nd colour on a workshop

It is possible to add colour to a dry point etching in various ways including rolling over the plate with a roller with different colours and another method which involves cutting pieces of coloured paper and adding these to the plate just before printing. This is called Chine Colle. 

A commission I did of 'Nancy'
A commission I did of 'Nancy'

I have a number of drypoint etchings available for sale in my drypoint etchings section. A commission that I did for a customer of a lovely brindle whippet shown here shows what can be achieved with some careful colour work with drypoint etching.

 

I regularly run drypoint etching printmaking workshops if you would like to have a go at this technique yourself. Here are a few examples of work that has been produced by people attending some of my drypoint etching workshops.

drypoint etching printmaking workshop dry point print mailing list

I am also running a very special Printmaking In Paradise holiday in Portugal where we will be spending 5 days exploring a number of printmaking processes such as drypoint etching, linocut and collograph printmaking. If you are looking for a creative experience this summer it really is worth checking out while there are still a few places left.