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Drypoint Prints

The drypoint technique is the least complex form of Intaglio printmaking, where lines are incised into a metal plate and then pressure is applied to print the image. Drypoint consists of scratching into or drawing on the surface of the plate with a pointed tool or needle, causing the metal around the lines to curl into grooves called a "burr," and as such is a subset of the etching technique.

When the plate is inked and then wiped clean, ink collects into the burr, resulting in images with rich, velvety lines after printing. Drypoint prints are typically made in small editions as a result of the limitations caused by the burr. The incised lines break down after approximately a dozen printings, causing the plate to print an unclear image; it can then no longer be used.

Quick Facts

  • 17th century Dutch master Rembrandt was the first to fully exploit drypoint prints for artist purposes
  • Contemporary artists such as Wayne Thiebaud and Louise Bourgeois consistently made drypoint prints, favoring the handcrafted nature of small editions as well as the richness of the resulting images
  • Drypoint is often used in conjunction with other printmaking techniques on the same plate, resulting in complex images

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