Drypoint is an intaglio technique in which an image is incised into a plate (or “matrix”) with a hard-pointed “needle” of sharp metal or diamond point. In principle the method is practically identical to engraving. The difference is in the use of tools, and that the raised ridge along the furrow is not scraped or filed away as in engraving. It enables combination of dynamic lines, including very fine lines, with tonal and textural effects.
The technique appears to have been invented by the Housebook Master, a south German 15th-century artist, all of whose prints are in drypoint only.
- Albrecht Dürer produced 3 drypoints before abandoning the technique
- Rembrandt used it frequently, but usually in conjunction with etching and engraving.
- Alex Katz used this process to create several of his famous works, such as “Sunny” and “The Swimmer”.
- Pablo Picasso, 1909, Two Nude Figures (Deux figures nues), steel-faced drypoint on Arches laid paper, 13 x 11 cm
- Max Beckmann
- Milton Avery
- Mary Cassatt adds aquatint with various colours.
- David Brown Milne is credited as the first to produce coloured drypoints by the use of multiple plates, one for each colour.
- Pedro Joseph de Lemos, simplified the methods for producing drypoints in art schools.
- Stanisław Masłowski, ca 1905, Portrait of Artist’s Wife, drypoint, 11.5×7.7 cm, National Museum in Warsaw
- Iona Howard with monoprint and carborundum
- Ross Loveday with monoprint and carborundum
Making the plate
Traditionally the plate was copper, but now acetate, zinc, or plexiglas are also commonly used. Drypoint technique of using the needle is like using a pencil.
Any sharp object can theoretically be used to make a drypoint, as long as it can be used to carve lines into metal. Dentistry tools, nails, and metal files can all be used to produce drypoints. However, certain types of needles are created specifically for drypoints:
- Diamond-tipped needles carve easily through any metal and never need sharpening, but they are expensive.
- Carbide-tipped steel needles can also be used to great effect, and are cheaper than diamond-tipped needles, but they need frequent sharpening to maintain a sharp point. Steel needles were traditionally used.
The lines produced by printing a drypoint are formed by the burr thrown up at the edge of the incised lines, in addition to the depressions formed in the surface of the plate. A larger burr, formed by a steep angle of the tool, will hold a lot of ink, producing a characteristically soft, dense line that differentiates drypoint from other intaglio methods such as etching or engraving which produce a smooth, hard-edged line.
The size or characteristics of the burr usually depend not on how much pressure is applied, but on the angle of the needle.
- A perpendicular angle will leave little to no burr, while the smaller the angle gets to either side, the larger the burr pileup.
- The deepest drypoint lines leave enough burr on either side of them that they prevent the paper from pushing down into the center of the stroke, creating a feathery black line with a fine, white center.
- A lighter line may have no burr at all, creating a very fine line in the final print by holding very little ink.
Printing is essentially the same as for the other intaglio techniques, but extra care is taken to preserve the burr.
Applying the ink: After the image is finished, or at least ready to proof, the artist applies ink to the plate with a dauber. Too much pressure will flatten the burrs and ruin the image.
Once the plate is completely covered with a thin layer, a tarlatan cloth is used to wipe away excess ink, and paper (typically pages from old phone books) may be used for a final wipe of the lightest areas of the image. Some printmakers will use their bare hand instead to wipe these areas.
Once the desired amount of ink is removed, the plate is run through an etching press along with a piece of dampened paper to produce a print. Because the pressure of printing quickly destroys the burr, drypoint is useful only for comparatively small editions; as few as ten or twenty impressions with burr can be made, and after the burr has gone, the comparatively shallow lines will wear out relatively quickly.
Best tutorials for Drypoint on plastic
- Very simple step by step overviews.
2) On plastic. Talks more about ink and ink removal. Using dirty tarlatan removes more ink because oil attracts oil. Don’t press too hard because you are trying to get the ink to bounce off. Make sure to wipe off the edge. Use damp paper. Uses marked Plexiglass for registration. There should be a ridge around the plate if pressure is right.
3) On copper. Discusses different tools and the mark-making process. With examples of different artists. Tones made through stippling, roulettes, mezzotint rocker. Roulettes with a fine tooth create subtle tones. Roulettes with coarse tooth create darker tones. Sandpaper can be used. Steel wool to create subtle tone. Try metal bristle brush.
Uses machine polishing on copper.