adventures in dry point

If you have read my blog recently, you will have read that when my husband gave to me a Utrecht baby etching press for St. Valentine’s Day, my printing adventures began (although until today, I haven’t been sharing my failures with you).  I have been trying to teach myself how to use this little press for its intended purpose, etching.  Dry point etching to be precise.

I bought some plastic etching plates and an engraving tool today after trying unsuccessfully  to use acetate and the pointy end of an old compass leftover from my hand drafting days.   The plate was rather easy to etch into .  Or engrave.  (I saw one comment on a site that said etching needs chemicals and he/she was not very nice in how they corrected the site’s author.  Please, be nice if you leave a comment.  My feelings hurt easily.)    I etched/engraved Mark Twain and was very pleased when my son said “it’s Mark Twain.”  But etching/engraving is easy, printing is hard.

Here is the first attempt…



I think the paper was too dry.

Here is the second print…


the ghost of Mark Twain, I wiped off too much ink.

Third try…


I left too much ink and was not careful with my handling of the paper, but I did like some of the line work.

I thought this next try would be perfect, but…


I realize I have a long way to go to perfection.

This one was done after I watched an artist online use his hand to wipe off the plate.


I liked the background but I was not very adept at controlling how much ink was left behind.  And my hand got really black with ink.  But this one gave me enough confidence to think I would be able to pull a good print after my next try.

And here is where I stopped.   For today.


With another 100 tries, I may have something I am proud of.

What have I learned?  That printmaking is hard.  That washing ink off your hands about 30 times really dries out your skin.  That a sink in my studio would be really nice.  And that I need a more knowledgeable instructor than myself!


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10 Responses to “adventures in dry point”

  1. joan Says:

    I am so impressed. Your drawing is exquiset as usual.

  2. Sue Schwarz Says:

    Love your rendition of Mark Twain…yes, I identified him as MT. Fully admire your diving into printmaking. Hopefully the learning curve won’t be too painful to make you quit. Your efforts are lovely.

  3. Joseph Le Says:

    I am liking each of the prints, unique & with character. A hundred try’s would be boat load of awesomeness.

  4. Karen @ Folk Haven Says:

    I remember my printmaking days in college… I found it very challenging! I really like your prints and that you are sharing your process with us.

  5. cabecada Says:

    love this, as an art student specializing in printmaking I’m always so pleased to see other people picking up and enjoying this great art. Once you get the hang of wiping the plate the way you want your prints will be even lovelier 🙂

  6. Elizabeth Harper Says:

    I love it! I’ve only helped with printmaking and that was years ago during my army days. You madam, are so talented!

  7. Mary Says:

    Well done! I did an etching class in college and loved it. I’ve never been brave enough to try it at home. Good for you for taking on something so new and challenging! With your wonderful artistic talent, you’ll be cranking out a series in no time!

  8. Liza Says:

    Wow, these are lovely! I think that the medium is really shining through! I never quite got the hang of dry point, but you are making me reconsider.

    I can make a few suggestions for more consistent results.
    Soak your paper for at least 15 minutes, dry it by running a battledore on it, through 2 sheets of blotting paper.
    For wiping, do you have tarlatan (stiff cheese cloth)? You need to get the excess starch out of it and when it’s still a little stiff, make a little ball/pillow out of it. Wipe the plate in circular motions, while rotating it so that you do not over wipe some areas. You can finish it off with a sheet of clean newspaper (telephone book paper works best), just to polish the whites.
    Also, if you are using oil based inks, oil and vinegar are your best friends for clean up, both work area and hands!

    If you have any questions feel free to ask!

    • laurenfinley Says:

      Thanks, thanks, thanks for the tips! Now if you will tell me what a battledore is… 🙂

      • Liza Says:

        Oh my, apparently trying to translate things from Russian doesn’t work well! I didn’t mean a battledore, but a rolling pin! 🙂

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