To do Drypoint plates, lines are scribed into the metal with a carbide tip scriber. Direct hand pressure ploughs furrows into the plates.
In Etching, asphaltum, an acid resistant ground, is first rolled onto the plate. The design is drawn into it. The plate is then immersed in an acid and the acid proceeds to burn the lines that were drawn into the plate. After removing the asphaltum, the plate is ready for inking and printing.
The printing process of either a Drypoint or Etched plate is the same. The plate is first preheated. The oil base etching ink used is very tacky and requires a hot surface so it can flow easily into the grooves when applied. After spreading ink generously over the metal plate, a stiff material called tarlatan is used to take the excess ink slowly and evenly off the plate. The toning process can be followed by a highlighting process, where corners of small pieces of mat board are used to highlight certain areas of the plate. Tarleton is used again to blend in the freshly highlighted areas.
To print the plate, the hot inked plate is placed on the bed of the printing press, dampened high quality rag content paper is placed over the top of the plate, and felts laid on top of the paper for even pressure. The plate is then run through the steel roller press.
When the paper is pulled carefully from the plate, it actually pulls the warm ink out of the grooves and onto the paper in relief. In the end, the shape of the plate is embossed into the paper meaning that each of the lines and dots within the picture are tiny raised walls of ink that stand in relief. Each print is individually inked and printed by hand.
Editions of Drypoint prints are very limited due to the wearing down of the delicate furrowed lines by the pressure of the press. Etchings will typically be seen in larger editions (25-200) depending on the depth of the burn of the lines on the plate.