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Drypoint with Aluminium Plates

Drypoint with Aluminium Plates

Drypoint is an intaglio printmaking method that involves scratching an image into a plate with a pointed tool. These lines create a burr that holds ink, meaning that the print reveals the drawing.

Drypoint is an easy technique to get to grips with and is a great method if you would like to take your drawings into print. It’s easier than etching as it requires less specialist equipment and no chemicals or acids. Drypoint plates can be made in aluminium, zinc or plastic.

Here’s how to do it:

Start by transferring your design to the plate. Here we are using red japanese carbon paper to transfer our image but you can draw directly onto the plate using a pencil if you wish.

Once the image has been transferred you can draw onto the surface of the plate using an etching needle. We are using a 2mm etching needle.

Due the the delicate nature of the aluminium plate even the lightest of marks will show up. You can experiment with the pressure you use to create different marks. Cross hatching works well to create areas of depth or shadow.

When your plate is finished, the red carbon paper or pencil can be wiped away leaving only your scratched line work behind. You are now ready to print!

First, you want to place your paper into your tray to soak. Fill the tray with around 2 inches of water and make sure that the paper in completely submerged. Leave the paper for about 5 minutes or as long as it takes to ink your plate. Soaking your paper helps to draw the ink out of the burred lines of your plate.

Using a palette knife, place a blob of ink on your inking plate. Using a wadded up piece of fabric, start to apply the ink onto your plate. We are using Akua intaglio ink but you could also use Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash etching ink.

Using a small piece of mount board or an old store rewards card (make sure it is a soft flexible one otherwise you risk scratching your plate), scrape away any excess ink. As you remove the excess ink, your design will start to show through. This step helps to push the ink into the drawn lines on your plate.

Use a piece of scrim to wipe the plate in a circular twisting motion. This will push the ink further into the burr on your plate and clean away any remaining excess ink.

Finally, wipe your plate with a piece of soft fabric. Wad up the fabric and remove excess ink from the areas of your plate you do not want to print. Wipe the edges of the plate so that a border is not printed onto your paper.

You should be able to see your drawing filled with ink.

To create a registration sheet use a sheet of paper (photocopy paper is fine) and draw around a piece of your printmaking paper, then position the plate onto the registration sheet and draw around this. This will ensure all images are positioned in the same place on each piece of paper. Place your registration sheet onto the press bed and position your inked up plate.

Remove your paper from the soaking tray and blot it on blotting paper or a clean piece of fabric e.g. a tea towel. The paper should feel very slightly damp. If the paper is too wet when printed it will blur the lines of the print. If it is too dry, you image will appear too pale.

Place your paper over your plate using the registration sheet for guidance.

Pass the plate through the press. The pressure of the press combined with the dampened paper should draw the ink out of the lines of the plate. The pressure on the press should be quite firm. Here we are using our Abig etching press.

You may want to use a sheet of newsprint over the top of the dampened paper to protect the blanket.

After the print has gone through the press, peel off the paper to reveal your print!

Your plate can now be inked up and wiped again for another print! When you have finished printing, the ink can be cleaned up with cold water, washing up liquid and a rag.

If your print appears a little too pale, try wiping less ink off your plate (it is possible that you have removed too much ink) or dry dampening your paper a little more next time.

If your print is a little smudged or blurry, dampen your paper less or blot it more before printing.

If your print appears too dark, wipe off more ink before printing!

To print a drypoint you will need:

Paper for drawing and registration sheet
Carbon paper to transfer your image (if needed)
Aluminium etching plate
Etching needle
Paper to print on e.g. Somerset
Tray to soak your paper in
Blotting paper (or a clean tea towel)
Akua Intaglio Ink
Inking Plate
Mount board or flexible store reward card
Newspaper, tissue paper or phone book for wiping
Rags for inking up, plate polishing and cleaning
Etching press
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