Modern Makers Blog - Part 2: Drypoint


Written by Modern Makers participant Katy Billington.

View all of this project's blog posts 

Blog / Week Two

Week two of Modern Makers, led by Pamela Grace, looked at drypoint – an intaglio technique in which an image is created by using a sharp-pointed etching needle to cut lines into a plate.

Over a cup of tea, we began the day by talking about drypoint and the various methods and types of plates – metal or plastic – used for this printing process. Pamela also talked us through some of her own designs and showed us some lovely, detailed insect prints and the plates she’d used to create these.

Feeling inspired, we then set out to create our own, starting with miniatures in order to test out different pressures and scratching styles. We used a plastic plate called Rhenalon and quickly learnt that one of the main advantages of using plastic is its transparency; it makes the process a lot easier when you can see your design under the plate. The downside is that plastic isn’t as robust as metal meaning the burrs (the raised edges that are thrown up when you scratch into the plate) wear down much more quickly – in all you can probably expect about five or six decent prints before the burrs give way. High stakes then!

One of the major differences with drypoint is the need for damp paper; this makes the paper more flexible and helps it to really be pressed into the burrs, thus picking up the ink and the fine details. Five minutes in a shallow bath did the trick and we left the paper to dry out a bit as we carried on scratching our plates. This time, instead of rolling the ink on the plate, we scraped it onto the plates and used some gauze (scrim) and old yellow pages to work it into the lines before clearing away the excess.  

After our initial plates had been through the press, we began to experiment with different colours, textures and some chine-collé – a technique where you place pieces of pasted paper (usually colourful) in between your plate and the paper you are printing on to, before running it through the press. The results were striking flashes of colour and pattern within our prints.

Looking at the prints we were creating, I was really impressed with drypoint and what we were able to achieve with it. For me, the fuzzy, velvety lines added a kind of dreamy and archaic quality to the print and I look forward to exploring this technique further.   

Written by Modern Makers participant Katy Billington.