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A first go at drypoint and printing

I was given some plastic etching sheets and a a special etching pen as a Christmas present and couldn't wait to try them out.

I did read a bit about it, but as it seems that the principle was a matter of just scraping an image onto the plastic and then printing, I dived straight in as I prefer to learn by experience!

Here's my process:

I've laid the sheet of plastic onto a piece of white paper so I can see what I'm doing a little easier. I've used the pen (you could use a needle in a cork or a compass - anything with a sharp point) to scratch an image of poppies. A good tip is to find a drawing you've done or even a photo and place it under the clear plastic. Remember whatever you do in this way will be reversed when printed so take care with text!!

I've used a stamp set to print some text on the reverse side of the plastic. This means when I turn it over to scrape in the letters, it will be reversed. This is what you need to print it properly and for it to be the right way round.

I've got to be honest, the printing part is the fun bit!

I'm using Caligo printing inks which are water soluble making them nice and easy to use.

The colour here is brown/black and I'm applying the ink directly to the plastic, and I'm using a piece of felt to rub it into the surface making sure all the cracks are filled.

Here you can see how much ink has been applied to ensure coverage. I'm now scraping off the excess with a piece of mountboard.

You now need to start rubbing with clean pieces of newspaper or telephone directory pages to remove the excess ink from the surface.

It's quite hard when you start, but keep going replacing the paper frequently. Magically it suddenly gets easier and you'll have a nice clean image to print from.

I am cleaning the background with a piece of cloth just to make sure as I don't want any bits of stray ink spoiling the paper.

You'll need some paper to print on. It does matter what you use but for an initial go printer paper should be fine. This is Somerset 30gms which has been wet under the tap and left on a piece of fabric for 5 minutes before using. It shouldn't be wet just slightly damp.

I'm using the Xcut for this experiment, but I also used the back of a spoon and it worked equally well if a little blurry because I hadn't taped everything down to keep it steady.

Anyway, put the plate on the plastic base that comes with the xcut. Make sure it's nice and straight. Put your damp paper on top, then the xcut top plate. Put it through the machine - I've used 4 to 4.5 for pressure and one pass through is all you need.

I really enjoyed the process and can't wait to try again very soon.


  1. Oh! I received some of the Caligo ink for Christmas and have been itching to print something. I love your results. Thanks for the inspiration. Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Jeannie, thanks for the comment. Have a lovely time printing and Happy New Year to you too!