Drypoint on Metal Plates With a 3D Printed Press

Drypoint Etching on Zinc Plate


Difficulty: easy

Materials needed:

. copper, zinc or aluminium plates (learn more in our free ebook)
. damp etching paper
. tissue paper or regular copy paper
. etching ink
. drypoint needle

This is the traditional approach to drypoint and works just like the juice box carton-technique we described here, but instead of a juice box you are using thin metal plates. Scratching your artwork in copper or zinc plates will give you the opportunity to print a lot more prints than with the juice box, because it’s more durable! The process is just the same as the juice box technique, but you’ll need a steel drypoint needle to scratch into the plate. Drypoints are known for their “sketchy“ lines that appear when you scratch into the plate, instead of removing material like in relief printing.


1. Metal plates

You can get zinc or copper plates for drypoint at your local art supply store or online, about 1mm thickness is good. Be careful with plates larger than 60x100mm, they will require more pressure to work. We suggest a size of 50x50mm, 40x60mm, 30x70mm, etc.


Zinc and Copper Plates Can be Used for Drypoints


2. Scratching

Use your drypoint needle to scratch your artwork into the plate. It’ll require more force than the juice box, so use your fingertips to check if you can feel the scratches. You can use one of our 3D printed needles for scratching, but they will get dull pretty quickly. A professional drypoint needle might be a better pick.

Remember that the finished print will be flipped!


Using a Drypoint Tool to Scratch Into the Plate


3. Ink Up Plate

Apply some etching ink onto the plate and rub it into the grooves. Make sure that the scratches are filled with ink. You can then use a small scraper,  queegee, or business card to remove ink excess from the surface.


Use a Business Card to Fill the Grooves With Ink


4. Wipe

Use a piece of tissue paper to wipe the surface clean while leaving the ink in the grooves. In the spirit of recycling you can also use old phone books or legal texts for wiping!


Use Tissue Paper to Wipe Off Excess Ink


5. Print

Prepare your usual print sandwich consisting of press bed, copy paper to protect the press bed, your inked up plate face up, damp etching paper, and the blanket on top. An additional paper between damp etching paper and blanket will keep the blanket clean if some of the watersoluble ink is leaking through the etching paper. Roll it through the press and lift the print!


Prepare Your Usual Print Sandwich


Roll Your Print Through the Press


Now You Can Lift Your Print!


prints by Francesca Casale & Carmen Moreno (from left to right)


prints by Francesca Casale & Carmen Moreno


You can find more techniques and helpful information in our free ebook!

Also, we'd love to see your prints, please feel free to share them on social media with #openpressproject and tag us @openpressproject! Happy printing!