Drypoint Printmaking using a Cookie Container without a Press

Drypoint Printmaking with Recycled Plastic and the Stomp Method of transferring the print without a press

While nibbling a cookie (Trader Joe’s Biscotti), I was pondering drypoint printmaking without a press. The cookie container in my hand was sturdy and smooth, and I wondered if it could be used to make a drypoint plate. I also wondered how the cookie(s) I just ate could contribute to the printing without a press part of this conundrum….

A cookie container inspires a printmaking question….
using recycled plastic to make a drypoint print
That smooth surface might be just the thing for a little engraving and inking….

Have you ever seen those clear plastic containers around produce and baked goods?

Some folks refer to them as clam-shells, since they often have a hinged cover.  Here in the U.S., many distributors of lettuce, cookies, and fruit will box their products in clear plastic containers that you can recycle into printmaking plates. 

With a little trimming, you can use the smoothest parts of the containers as plates for drypoints or monotypes! Let’s examine, shall we?

This blueberry container (the lid) is now a 6×8 monotype plate I use over and over again.
Strike while the iron is hot. Let’s clip the edges off that cookie container top, and see what we can make!

Make Some Printmaking Plates

First, eat the goodies in the container. 😌

Next, inspect the top, bottom and sides to search for a smooth, flat section, free of seams, holes or ridges.

Note: the flattest segment may be under the product label. You can soak the label in water, and then scrape it off, and use vegetable oil to rub out the remaining glue. Be careful not to scratch the plastic.

Now, use kitchen shears or craft scissors to trim a square, rectangle, or circle of plastic.

Once your piece is free of the container, measure and straighten the edges with a utility knife and ruler.

If you’re cutting a round shape, trace the base of an appropriate sized bottle or glass with a marker, and carefully trim with a utility knife on a self healing mat.

The top of the packaging is thicker than the sides, so I think this might work!
I’ve used the same twisted scribe on copper and plexiglass to make drypoints since 2005. The simple, sharp tool is like a trusted pal at this point. No pun intended.
Using a sharp tool to incise lines in a piece of recycled plastic
Make a few initial lines with your engraving tool, and then pull a test print to see if you need to press harder, or make the lines shallower. See how crooked my cutting was along the edge of the plate? We’ll fix that below…

Transparent Plate Material is Perfect for Tracing

I’m using a twisted scribe – also known as a Whistler’s Needle – to draw a face in the plastic with firm pressure.  If you don’t have access to a scribe, try an awl, an ice pick, or a heavy gage sewing needle,  taped securely to a chop stick. 

If drawing is challenging for you, take advantage of the clear plastic, and trace a photo. Tape the plate down, or make a trace outline of your plate on top of your reference photo so you can align it over your image again after pulling some test prints.

A sanding block will help keep your plate edges nice and straight. You can also roll the corners of the plate against the grit to round off the sharp points.

Fine Tune Your Cutting with Sand Paper

After I cut this little piece from the cookie container, and straightened it with a ruler, I used a fine grit sandpaper wrapped around a block to smooth the edges, and slightly round the corners.

Add Plenty of Crosshatching to Increase Contrast

Drypoint, like most printmaking, is an iterative process. That is, you can simply outline your form with your engraving needle, and ink it up to pull a print so you can see how it’s coming out. Then you can use that print to inform your next steps on the design. 

Say you want to add shading, or contrast after seeing your first outline print. You return to your cleaned and dried plate with your twisted scribe, and add lots of crosshatching.

After crosshatching shapes here and there, you ink and wipe the plate again, and pull another test print. (These are called artist proofs.)

At this stage, you might decide a few more details are needed to improve the composition of your design, so you scribe some more into the plate material. Then you ink, wipe and print again, and see how that looks, and so on.

Outside in the sun – I inked the tiny plate with Akua intaglio ink in the color Graphite, and wiped the plate with rolled up and crumpled newsprint and phone book pages.
If you’re not familiar with inking and wiping, here is one of the drypoint engraving videos on my youtube channel that may help you. Check out the intaglio printmaking playlist for more tips.
This little drypoint experiment was printed on BFK Rives light weight printmaking paper.
Plate and printmaking paper cuddled together, and then a folded sheet of newsprint around them, and the whole bundle was inserted into a magazine for safe keeping.
‘Stand’ is what I did after I stomped. Pretend the magazine is a puddle, and you’re four. Stomp onto the magazine, and then switch back to being an adult, and hold still for a moment.

Use Your Body Weight to Stomp a Print

Stomp-printing this drypoint engraving with nothing more than my body weight (which included the cookies I ate earlier) was an experiment. But it works!

You can read more about Stomp Printing over here.

It’s important to avoid rocking the plate-paper-magazine sandwich. You want to avoid moving the paper against the plate. That will lead to a staggered print with a shadowy artifact effect.

Lay your magazine and drypoint assembly on the ground, and jump on it with two feet landing at the same time. That’s it. Don’t rock or take steps or twist. Step off the magazine, and check your print. How does it look?

Step off the magazine. The soaked and blotted printmaking paper has wet the newsprint around it, and the magazine pages….
This is the part – when you see a slight plate impression in your printmaking paper – where your heart rate increases with hopefulness.
After stomping on the paper and plate tucked into a magazine, the assembly is pulled away to reveal a drypoint print, successfully transferred to paper without a press.
Get your cookies, eat them, and clip a fresh plate from the container before you recycle the rest of the material.
I *had* to buy more cookies. There’s deliciousness inside, and a drypoint or monotype plate on the outside. Right?

The Right Tools for the Job

For the best chances at drypoint printmaking success, use intaglio printmaking ink, and printmaking paper to do this. Acrylic will dry too fast, and watercolor will bleed into the paper so you’ll lose your details.

If you have any other material-partnership workarounds that create a successful drypoint stomp print, please share them with us in the comments.

Have a ton of fun experimenting with this –

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

Belinda

P.S Speaking of tools, if you’d like to be better acquainted with the warning symbols on art supplies related to toxicity and health, read this article by Winsor and Newton about what each symbol means.

art studio wall mounted wood and leather paper dispenser
Wouldn’t this wall-mounted paper dispenser be a cool art studio space saver?

Art Quote

Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light… And in this light, we can see beyond shadow and illusion to something beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.

Anne Lamott
Drypoint of a head study with colored pencil added
Playing with colored pencil on the artist’s proof drypoint print
Here is another drypoint printmaking demonstration from my youtube channel. Be sure to subscribe to the channel, and click the little bell icon so you’ll get notified when new videos are posted.

Drypoint on Plexiglass Print Supplies

Here is a list of supplies to help you prepare to make a drypoint print from plexiglass.

16 thoughts on “Drypoint Printmaking using a Cookie Container without a Press”

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading about your printing techniques, but never been too tempted to try any…until reading this one. I mean, I (almost) always have a supply of TJ’s biscotti, so what’s to lose? But whether or not I follow through on the impulse, I do continue to enjoy your posts!

    1. Hi Jeanne, I clink my coffee cup to yours while nibbling a trader joe’s biscotti. The pumpkin spice flavored version is out, and they’re disappearing fast around here, so that means more printmaking plates are available. I hope you DO make a drypoint. It’s loads of fun. And if not, you’re always welcome to hang out here, and eat cookies with me. 😄

  2. Hi, Belinda– Another fantastic post !I’ve got loads of different papers, but no BFK Rives.Could you list some other papers which would be passable?

    1. Hi Carrie, Your best bet might be a fun little marathon session. Make a tiny test plate with assorted marks, and crop swatches of all your papers, labeled for a press-test. I have only tried BFK Rives for this experiment, but I like Arches Cover, Somerset, Arnhem 1618 and Revere for hand transfer.

  3. Jonna Kjær

    This is an awesome idea! And you describe the procedure in such detail and with such magnificient humour that it brings a big smile to my face and a lot of inspiration to my mind. I’m surely gonna try this out as soon as I’ve collected the necessary materials (putting cookies and berries on my shopping list😋). Thank you so much for sharing your creative ideas❤️❤️❤️

    1. Hi Jonna! I’m so glad you find the post understandable and inspiring! I can’t wait to hear about which cookies, and what sort of drypoint you make. Happy stomping and buon appetite to you! Thanks for the compliments!

  4. That’s terrific, what a great reason to eat more biscotti. Post that on the Printhackers Facebook page, it would fit right in.

    1. Hi Clare, Thanks for the note, and here-here on eating more biscotti! I love the Printhacker’s Facebook Page! We artists are an inventive demographic, thank goodness!

  5. Mickey Nolan

    Belinda, you’re a temptress – first with art and now cookies! You have given us a legitimate excuse for buying cookies, all for the sake of art, of course. This looks like a fun experiment and one that I will most definitely try. Thank you for continuing to feed our artistic souls.

    1. Hi Mickey – I don’t think I’ve ever been called a temptress before, so thank you for that. I hope I’ve enticed you to clip some plastic, and draw with a tool this weekend. It’s so much fun! Thanks for your (always) kind note. Happy Stomping and Printing!

  6. Angela Finney

    Love this post Belinda! Looking forward to trying this printing without a press! I do have a bag full of saved “plexiglass” like container material and have used it successfully with a press. Thank you for being so creative and sharing!❤️👏🏻

    1. Hi Angela, If you have a bag of recycled plastic, you’re ready to go! Especially if it’s transparent, and you can trace the basics of your image from a reference photo! What fun you’ll have! And then you can paint the prints with watercolor or add colored pencil! Art Party!!! Thanks for your visit, and your encouragement. 🙂

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