Method and Practice for Dry Point Workshop

Dry point is one of the intaglio techniques along with etching and mezzotint. An engraving or print is made with a hard steel needle to incise or scratch lines into a metal plate or into Plexiglas. It is the furrows created by the incising or scratching that hold the ink. A typical feature of this technique is the ‘burr’ at the edges of the lines. A “dry point” is an engraving or print made with this technique. This method of working is spontaneous and is known as “the artist’s print”.

Dry Point for Worksheet Method and Practice November 2015

Material needed

  • Copper or zinc or Plexiglas plate
  • Hard needle for incising
  • Burnisher for working over the incised plate
  • Etching ink
  • Scrim for cleaning the ink off the plate
  • Small pieces of hard card for putting on the ink
  • Paper for intaglio printmaking methods
  • Plate of glass or plexi for inking the plate
  • Metal file for smoothing the edges of the plate

Before starting the dry point process, the edges of the metal plate should be filed smooth with a metal file to remove any jagged metal. The filing should be done both on the front and back of the plate. This prevents the ink from sticking on the edge of the plate creating a black line.

With a hard needle scratch into the surface. The deeper the furrow inscribed, the more the ink will be held in the grooves. If any lines or scratched areas are not required they can be smoothed out with a burnisher.

A paper guide the same size as the paper intended for printing is placed on the bed of the press. The dry paper and the plate can be taken through the press to check the pressure is correct before inking up the plate. The paper should have equal indentation on both sides.

At this point the paper for printing can be placed in the water bath.

A small amount of ink is placed on the piece of glass for mixing. With the small piece of cut card, cover the plate to be printed with etching ink, using even strokes, pushing the ink into the incised lines. When the entire plate is covered, use a generous piece of scrim to remove the ink from the surface of the plate with a gentle brushing movement. Take care that the ink is not wiped out of the incised lines. It is important to wipe off the ink from the edges of the plate.

With clean hands, remove the paper for printing, from the water. Blot the wet paper. The paper should be damp not wet. This enables the paper to be pressed into the lines when taken through the press.

Carefully place the cleaned, inked plate onto the press bed on the paper guide. Place the damp paper over the paper guide. Take the print through the press with moderately fast turns. (presto ma non troppo)

The plate can be incised or scratched several times before the final result is achieved.

The final print will be flattened under a board or two in newsprint. This should be changed a couple of times until it is dry and flat.

Dry point

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