Collette Howie

Artist & Printmaker

What the heck is a Drypoint print?

I hear you cry! I have been lino printing for several years now but imagine my amazement when I discovered that you can get a more illustrated, drawn, and detailed look with other types of printmaking. The look of Drypoint instantly appealed to me and after a little more investigation I found out it was quite accessible. I don’t have access to a printmaking studio so anything I can do easily from my shed is good.

Drypoint is a form of Intaglio printmaking. Intaglio describes forms of printmaking where an image is incised or etched, scraped, scratched into the printing plate. Kind of like the opposite of Linocut. With lino I carve away all the pieces of the print I want to remain white and what is left is what will print. With Intaglio the ink goes into those little etched lines and that is what prints!

Drypoint can be done on many surfaces. You can use tetrapak ( that funny cardboard /plastic we are never quite sure which recycling box it goes into and your fresh orange may come in it.) You can buy drypoint plastic cheaply from printmaking suppliers like Handprinted. Mirror craft card is excellent too and then you can move onto acetate, aluminum, zinc, and copper. I personally am enjoying using Aluminium at the moment as I can see what I am working on more easily and I like the dark tone it achieves.

You can use a number of household tools for drypoint too! You can buy an etching needle cheaply from Handprinted BUT you can use a needle, nails, sharp pointy implements, sandpaper to scratch texture into the plate and so on. You can literally see what you have in the junk drawer that will make an incised line into your surface.

Aluminium and my etching tools
The etched image

It is recommended that you use etching ink for drypoint ( this can be bought easily from art shops) but I have recently used relief printing ink for some work and it turned out really well. Once my picture is etched onto my printing plate I use a small roll of felt to daub ink all over the plate. You can use a plastic flexible store card or similar to scrape the excess off. Then comes the really messy part. Take some cheesecloth, or scrim also known as Tarlatan, and wipe in small circular motions all over the plate. This helps push the ink into the etched lines you have made. Then I like to take a soft cloth and carefully keep wiping until I have removed all the ink I don’t want to print and be really careful not to wipe ink out of my incised lines.

The inked plate

Once I am happy with the plate I can then go ahead and print it using my press. Each time I ink the plate up it will give a slightly different image due to the inking and wiping process. I love it! If you want to have a go I would suggest having a look at this wonderful tutorial by Handprinted for methods you can do from home without a press.

The printed image

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