Drypoint – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Techniques and Materials Glossary

What is Drypoint?

Drypoint is a printmaking technique that involves scratching an image onto a metal or plastic plate using a sharp tool. The process creates a burr along the edges of the incised lines, which holds ink and creates a soft, velvety texture when printed. Drypoint prints are known for their rich, expressive lines and tonal qualities, making them a popular choice among artists looking to create unique and textured prints.

History of Drypoint

Drypoint has a long history that dates back to the 15th century, when it was first used by artists to create prints. The technique became particularly popular during the 17th century in Europe, where artists like Rembrandt and Goya used drypoint to create some of their most famous works. Drypoint continued to be a popular printmaking technique throughout the centuries, with artists experimenting with different materials and techniques to create unique and innovative prints.

Materials Needed for Drypoint

To create a drypoint print, you will need a metal or plastic plate, a sharp tool for incising the image, ink, paper, and a printing press. The plate can be made of copper, zinc, or plexiglass, depending on the desired effect. The sharp tool, known as a drypoint needle, is used to scratch the image onto the plate, creating the incised lines that will hold the ink. Ink is applied to the plate, and then the excess ink is wiped away, leaving ink only in the incised lines. The plate is then placed on the press, and the image is transferred onto paper by applying pressure.

Techniques for Creating a Drypoint Print

There are several techniques that can be used to create a drypoint print, each resulting in a different effect. One common technique is to use cross-hatching, where lines are scratched onto the plate in a crosshatch pattern to create shading and texture. Another technique is to use a roulette, a tool with a spiked wheel that creates a dotted texture on the plate. Artists can also use a combination of techniques to create a unique and expressive print.

Advantages and Challenges of Drypoint

One of the main advantages of drypoint is the rich, velvety texture that can be achieved through the process. The burr created by the incised lines holds ink and creates a soft, expressive line quality that is difficult to achieve with other printmaking techniques. Drypoint also allows for a great deal of experimentation, as artists can easily make changes to the plate by re-scratching or adding new lines.

However, there are also challenges associated with drypoint. The burr created by the incised lines can wear down over time, resulting in prints with less texture and definition. Additionally, the pressure applied during printing can cause the burr to flatten, resulting in prints with less contrast and depth. Despite these challenges, many artists continue to use drypoint for its unique and expressive qualities.

Famous Artists Known for Using Drypoint

Several famous artists are known for their use of drypoint in their work. Rembrandt, a Dutch master of the 17th century, used drypoint to create some of his most famous prints, including “Christ Presented to the People” and “The Three Crosses.” Francisco Goya, a Spanish artist of the 18th and 19th centuries, also used drypoint to create expressive and haunting prints, such as “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.”

In more recent times, artists like Edward Hopper and Mary Cassatt have also used drypoint in their work, creating prints that showcase the unique qualities of the technique. These artists have helped to popularize drypoint as a versatile and expressive printmaking technique that continues to be used by artists around the world.