A Step-by-Step for Dry Point Etching

by Lauren Griffin

Drypoint etching is a form of printmaking that has been used for centuries to produce beautifully detailed artwork. Like other intaglio styles of printmaking, drypoint etching produces a print by incising an image into the surface of a plate. However, unlike etching which requires acid to burn into the plate, drypoint etching simply relies on a sharp, small tool. When the plate is inked, ink remains in the groves that have been etched into it and produces the print when pressed with paper.

Items you will need

  • Metal plate (copper, steel or zinc)
  • Etching tool
  • Ink
  • Metal paint scraper
  • Square of matte board
  • Tarlatan wipe
  • Print press
  • Print paper
Step 1

Sketch a design for your print. Once you have etched the design onto the plate, it cannot be erased without sanding down the entire plate, so plan out your artwork on paper first.

Step 2

Obtain a metal plate. Look at its surface to make sure it is smooth, because any indents will act like an etching and hold ink, which can ruin your print.

Step 3

Begin drypoint etching with a sharp etching tool. You can scratch, scrape, puncture and use other techniques to carve your image into the metal plate.

Step 4

Ink the plate. Squeeze some ink onto a glass plate, then use the metal scraper to spread it out, so it's not one big glob. Run the matte-board square through the ink, then spread it on the plate.

Step 5

Wipe the inked plate with a tarlatan wipe to remove the ink from the surface of the plate. The ink will remain in the portions you etched.

Step 6

Run your inked plate through the print press to make your print.

About the Author

Lauren Griffin began writing professionally in 2010. Her articles appear on various websites, specializing in academics, food and other lifestyle topics. Griffin attended Columbia University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.