Drypoint is an intaglio process, like etching or engraving. This means that the image is formed by ink which lies at the bottom of a groove, as opposed to a relief print (lino or woodblock) where the ink lies on the upper surface of the plate. Drypoint can be done on soft sheet metals such as zinc or copper and also on acetate.
Essentially, a drypoint is made by scaping into and abrading the smooth surface of the plate. Linear work is made with a scriber, a sharp needle-like pointed tool which is drawn over the surface by hand with some pressure. This produces a groove and also forms a ragged burr along the line, which when later inked produces the characteristic soft, or “furry” printed line. The scriber is the most common tool but other types of mark can be made. Sandpaper, wire brushes or steel wool will make broad areas of tone with different qualities.
When the image is prepared, the plate must be inked up. To do this etching ink must be used. A small card or rubber squeegee is used to draw some ink over the entire surface of the plate, ensuring the ink is forced down into all the grooves. A piece of soft scrim or tarlatan is then used to remove most of the ink from the surface. This should be formed into a rounded pad and run firmly over the surface of the plate. The ink should stay in the worked areas of the plate. Further ink can be removed with a piece of flat tissue. The artist often chooses not to remove all the tone from the non worked areas of the plate to give a more varied, rich image.
The plate is then printed in exactly the same way as for a monoprint. A small edition can be printed from a drypoint. The ink must be applied and wiped again each time.