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Drypoint Etching Workshop at Sunderland University

“Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear

what now you do not know.”


As part of our ongoing relationship with Sunderland University we were invited to a one-day workshop in January to learn about drypoint etching. I had thoroughly enjoyed last year’s silk screen workshop and was keen to try out this new process.

Drypoint etching is part of the Intaglio group of printmaking techniques, which include engraving, drypoint, etching, aquatint, stipple and mezzotint.   I had previously read about this technique but could not understand how such a little amount of ink could be enough to print from!

Our Tutor for the day was Hannah Gawne, Senior Textile and Print Making Technician. Hannah is a fantastic tutor, her explanations, demonstrations and display of previously worked examples which showed aspects of printing and the faults that can occur were excellent. She also runs a printing club each Weds which I am looking forward to joining next year.

Drypoint Etching
The principal behind etching is that you scrape your design onto the plate. Traditionally this would have been a plate of copper, but for our test and learn session we were using a type of thinly plastic covered card.
Using a drypoint needle we “scratched” our design onto our plate.

Once the design is fully drawn the plate is covered in printers’ ink. This is applied using a recycled cut down silk screen squeegee, moving and pressing the ink in all directions into the tiny furrows.

The residual surface ink is removed using a scrim cloth in a type of twisting action, which further forces the ink in.
Depending on the type of finish you are looking for, you may wish to clean all the surface ink from the plate, this can be done using clean clothes or even cotton buds for small areas. This will give a very clean printed image.

If you wish to have a kind of smudged atmosphere, some of the buffed ink can be left on the plate, giving a more diffused look to the print.

The paper is prepared by bathing it in a water bath for 5mins. Excess water is removed by placing the paper on a clean flat wet-wall surface and using a bladed wiper. It is then further dried between blotting paper.

Next, the plate is placed (ink side up) on the printing press. The prepared paper is placed over it, another layer of covering paper and the thick wool printing blankets are smoothed on top.

The wheel is then turned allowing the table to move under the weighted rollers. This allows ink to be lifted from the furrows and adheres to the moistened paper.

After viewing the printed result, the paper then needs to be placed in a weighted press to allow the paper to fully dry out, without wrinkling.

If you wish to pull another copy, the plate can then be prepped with ink and used again to print another copy.

I really enjoyed learning this new technique and would happily try it again. Everyones prints turned out beautifully. We have since taken photocopies of our prints with the intention to work into them with other mediums.


Published by stweddle

Living in Newcastle I have access to great landscape; sea, urban, country and city which I am continually inspired by. Starting my artistic qualification in my 50's allows me the benefit of long years admiring others art and a burning need to create my own.

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