Drypoint Print on Plexiglass – Using Inexpensive Plastic for Intaglio Printmaking

drypoint engraving etched from plexiglass

Save for later & Share!

a drypoint on plexiglass print of a rose, a bird and a cup of coffee
Coffee and Roses 5.5 x 4.25 Drypoint on Gray Rives BFK paper with watercolor

Drypoint on Plexiglass

Want to know how to make a drypoint on plexiglass? This little drypoint print (above) was an experiment with inexpensive plastic plate material, instead of the traditional copper plates used in drypoint printmaking.

In recent years, I’ve done drypoint etchings and engravings on clear plexiglass plates. The line work can be hard to see while drawing into the plastic with the scribe or needle.

I bought a sheet of opaque black plexiglass on amazon to see if my mark-making would be more evident on the darker acrylic. I scored and snapped the sheet into several pieces to make multiple prints (see that in the video below). It worked!

a sheet of black plexiglass with an etching needle being used to scribe grooves in the plastic that will hold ink and print to paper on a printing press
Using an etching needle to scribe grooves into the plexiglass that will hold ink and print the lines to a sheet of printmaking paper on a press

Drypoint Printmaking on Inexpensive Plexiglass

You can see how to prepare the plate, and make a drypoint print from this inexpensive plexiglass plate in the video tutorial below. All the supplies are listed at the bottom of the post.

There are lots of other watercolor and printmaking experiments on my youtube channel.

Crosshatching incised lines on the black plexiglass leaves lovely white trails in the material. Its so easy to see your mark-making!
This video describes the process for making a drypoint print from a sheet of opaque black plexiglass, using an etching needle, black ink and a printing press.
A close up of the bevel shaved off the sharp edge of the plexiglass. This is really important if you’re printing on a press.
If you need help beveling your plexiglass plates to make a drypoint print, here is a step by step tutorial.

Links to Learn More About Drypoint Printmaking

Using an etching needle to scrape grooves into the surface of a sheet of plexiglass that will hold ink for a drypoint print.

Drypoint Printmaking Tools

If your hands have trouble with gripping narrow tools, or repetitive movements cause pain, you can incise the lines on your plate with an electric Dremel engraving tool like this one.

The plate is cleaned of all dust from the engraving process, and it’s ready to ink and wipe before heading to the printing press.
Drypoint engraving on plexiglass, ready for ink and a proof print
After a trip through the printing press, the paper has been pushed into the grooves on the plexiglass where the ink remained after wiping the top of the plate.

No Press? No Problem!

Here is an intriguing post by artist Annie Day in Australia, using the pressure in a small, inexpensive die cutting machine to print her drypoints, etchings, linocuts and collagraphs. Check it out here.

Have a look at this post about small printing press alternatives that include pasta makers and embossing machines.

pulling a drypoint print from a sheet of black plexiglass after a trip through a printing press, where the line work on the plate has transferred to the paper revealing a still life of a rose, a cup and a bird figurine
After a trip through the press, pulling the drypoint print off the plate to reveal the ink transfer – from the ink embedded in the grooves on the plate, to the printmaking paper
a drypoint print of a rose, a mug and a bird figurine from a sheet of plexiglass, painted with watercolors
After the ink on the drypoint print was fully dry, I added a transparent veil of watercolor.

Drypoint Printing for Beginners

There are some workarounds to needing a press for printmaking methods. It’s pretty easy to transfer a relief or block print by hand. Intaglio prints, where you are printing from the recessed area of the plate, is a little tougher.

Hand transfer of drypoint engravings, etchings and intaglio style prints is a lot of work, and a bit fickle in nature. It can be done, but it might be so challenging for beginners that they lose interest.  

We all need successes in the studio to stay curious about a new art-endeavor, so be sure to explore the alternatives in the links above, and the archives of this site. Have a look at the process photos, watch the tutorial videos, read about inks and press alternatives, and then give it a try.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You can subscribe (its free) to get each of these posts as an email here.

P.P.S. Thank you very much for all the patronage during the sale in my Etsy Shop this week. It was lovely to “meet” so many new collectors! Your encouragement and purchases keep this blog endeavor running, and I’m very grateful to each and every one of you. ❌⭕️

Examples of using the Grid Method to help with accuracy in drawing
Do you use the Grid Method to help make your drawings more accurate before painting or carving? Click the image above to sign up for an email when my Introduction to Grid Drawing for Watercolor course is published.
Drypoint etching on black plexiglass makes your engraved lines stand out during the incising process. It’s much easier to see your drawing while engraving the plexiglass material.

Art Quote

Surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you.

I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure.

I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living.

The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Drypoint on Plexiglass or Recycled Plastic Printmaking Supplies

Here is a list of supplies to help you prepare to make a drypoint print from plexiglass, drafting film (mylar), or recycled plastic.

Save for later & Share!

20 thoughts on “Drypoint Print on Plexiglass – Using Inexpensive Plastic for Intaglio Printmaking”

  1. …I forgot to say… I also use a laundry wringer for larger pieces of paper than A4 that won’t fit in the die-cut embosser. I had to change it: distance the rollers from each other and build a simple device to feed through the laundry wringer. In all honesty I haven’t got it to work as well as the embossing machine yet, but I hope I will be able one day to emboss A3 size !

  2. Wow that was fascinating and informative. I’d only just started engraving into plexiglass so it’s great to get the confirmation that it’ll work. Sheets of plexiglass new is a hell of a lot cheaper than tiny copper plates. And it’s even better if you can recycle stuff you find on the street. Also – I use an A4 die-cut embosser and the results are fantastic, at least with the zinc plate I tried… I use the embosser for almost everything (particularly to press self-made embossing folders which print 3-D images onto moistened paper). …and I’ve also been using a dremel tool for years! I’ve got about 6 of them now around the house in varying sizes and hundreds of different heads which produce different textures. Thanks again for the fascinating post. P.S. I want to work out how to make my own ink for drypoint etching because it is so expensive and comes in such small containers. No success because if I can get the paint thick enough it won’t go into the grooves.

  3. Hi, I started experimenting with drypoint printing using plexiglass on an Access to Art course at college. I’d just like to say that instead of buying black plexiglass, I use clear plexiglass and once I have transferred the outline (which can be a little challenging), I place the clear plate on a piece of black paper or card and then add all my details and shading freehand.
    And I think your prints are awesome!

  4. Hi Belinda, this is unbelievably interesting and I would love to try it sometime when my fingers lose some of the swelling from arthritis and after I gather most the material from Amazon, of course. It is so easy to get fired up but another thing to stick with it, right! I am so grateful for all your knowledge and how you so tirdlessly pass it on to us the other artists Belinda. Best wishes, Steinunn

    1. Hi Steinunn, I’m glad you’re interested in trying drypoint! If you do gather the supplies to give it a go, you might consider buying a small dremel engraver ( https://amzn.to/36cpfpq ) to save your hands from the strain of incising lines and crosshatching. A sharp point on the engraver will allow you to draw into the material much faster, and with less pressing from your hands. Either way, have fun playing with your art supplies, and thanks so much for the kind compliments.

  5. Kathleen Harte Gilsenan

    Beautiful example. I love the way you can see your lines while engraving. Would it also work to just paint black acrylic on the back of clear plexi, or tape a piece of black paper to the back while scribing?

    1. Hi Kathleen, Thanks for your compliments… I think it’s easier to just lay the plexi on a dark sheet of paper or mat board. No tape necessary. You can see how that looks in this video: https://youtu.be/5GWAHsL7Yvw I think painting the plate with acrylic would result in a plate shedding paint tendrils because the surface is so slippery, but that’s what makes it work so well for an intaglio print. Much of this will depend on the artist’s eye sight. Mine is hampered for all things close up, so I needed all the help I could get. ?

    1. I thought at first a good idea black plexiglass but how do you tell where the tonal range is when you wipe the plate?

      1. I printed this edition with traditional intaglio ink, and the pigment (black) was clearly visible on the plexiglass when the plate was tilted to catch light. I could see clearly as I was wiping where I had more or less ink, and it was not a problem to wipe the ink with the same tonal control intention that I’d use on a clear plexi or a copper plate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *