Make a Drypoint Print from Recycled Plastic

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Make a Drypoint Print from a Plastic Tomato Container

Welcome to this series of printmaking posts utilizing stuff around the house as printmaking supplies to make art during the Pandemic.

We’ve explored drypoint etching and monotype prints in these previous posts, in case you missed them:

For this portrait, we’ll start with a tomato container. The smoothest part is the lid.
After removing the labels, I’ve used kitchen scissors to pull small squares and rectangles I can use for printmaking projects.
This is a twisted scribe, also known as a Whistler’s Needle, since James McNeill Whistler used one to make his etchings. You can get one here.
This ink – Cranfield Caligo Safewash Intaglio – is new to me, and I *love* it for drypoint etchings!

New (to me) Etching Ink

Cranfield Caligo Safewash Intaglio ink is richly pigmented, and similar in consitency to oil-based intaglio inks.

The ink is perfectly viscous to stay in my line work while I’m wiping the plate, and it is sticky enough to attach to paper, even during hand transfer.

It also washes up with soap and water, and dries on paper permanently, so you can add color to your print with wet media like watercolor if you’d like!

Here is a video demonstration of making a drypoint from recycled plastic produce or baked goods containers
Pulling the print after a trip through my press. (All the previous posts above – related to drypoint from recycled plastic – are demonstrated without the use of a press.)
The freshly pulled print on the left, and the plate on the press bed on the right

After the ink dried on the drypoint print, I added watercolors… The reference image was loaned to me by someone super nice. (Thanks, L.S.)

Options for Hand Coloring a Drypoint

This drypoint print of a little girl with two hens in her arms is a small edition of four. I think I’ll color each drypoint differently, as a demonstration of the options you have to hand color your intaglio prints.

Are you interested in seeing that?

Maybe one tinted with colored pencils, one with just black ink, focusing on values, and another in graphite?

No Boys Allowed 5×5.25 inch Drypoint Engraving with Watercolor (available in my Etsy Shop)

Have You Made a Drypoint Yet?

I’ve seen a couple of *fabulous* drypoints from folks sharing them in a few of the drypoint printmaking groups on Facebook. Have you joined to see and share work with other printmakers there?

Take a look at the Drypoint Printmaking Group on Facebook to see work from a global audience of printers, working from studios, kitchen tables, universities and garages.

I also highly recommend the Small Craft Press printmaking group, with ingenious press alternatives. You’ll find everything from laundry manglers to pasta machines and stencil cutters transformed into working, table-top printing presses.

If you dive in, and make a drypoint, be sure to leave us a link in the comments. We’d love to see your work.

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


P.S Speaking of fowl, have you seen this giant, abandoned church in an Indonesian jungle shaped like a chicken?

P.P.S. If you’re a print enthusiast, can I recommend an amazing magazine? Take a look at Pressing Matters. My husband gave me a subscription as a gift, and it’s so beautifully produced! Every printmaker they profile has been new to me, and the work is just remarkable. It’s super inspiring.

P.P.S. If you’d rather make a collagraph print instead of a drypoint, this post shows you how to make a collagraph from a recycled paper food carton with ink and colored pencils.

Doodling chicken portraits on outbound envelopes…
Playing with chicken-shaped monotypes on black paper in the studio.

Art Quote

Each drawing and painting is an experiment, and a mirror reflecting our perceptions of reality. Unfortunately, we rarely paint what we see. Most often we paint an unconscious projection of incorrect ideas of what we think we see. The more we study visual appearances, the more our awareness and understanding of light and form will grow, and the better equipped we’ll be to draw and paint the world around us according to its inherent wisdom, nobility and beauty.

Tony Ryder

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9 thoughts on “Make a Drypoint Print from Recycled Plastic”

  1. I have followed all your sites seeking to start printmaking. I have created several small food container dry point images and have had trouble with some the plastic curving from the needle work. Am I pressing too hard? Is there a difference in the quality of plastic used? I also switched to plexiglass but the container plastic is really to great source for materials, I would hate to lose it. I can’t tank you enough for the work you have done with your teaching.

  2. Darlene Rutledge

    Thanks for this! I made a little plate from a lettuce bin, printed it using the paper I had on hand and then watercoloured it. Will make a fab card for my niece who is the subject of the print. Can’t wait to read through your blog further.

    1. Hi Darlene! I’m glad you gave this fun process a go, and the result turned out so well for you! Like me, you’ll be eyeing every lettuce bin for potential printmaking plates from now on!

  3. Which pastels do you recommend? I was looking for your post about cafe with ruby colored walls. Did you say prismacolor nupastels are opaque? Thanks!

  4. Sally Allerton

    I learn so much from your posts and videos and would love to see how you hand colour your drypoint etchings. Beautiful print of the little girl and chickens!

    1. Hi Sally! Thanks very much for the feedback… I really appreciate that. From what I saw of your fabulous double portrait collagraph, you’re coloring your prints just fine, but I’d be happy to make a video on my process. Thanks for your compliments!

  5. I love reading your blog posts Belinda, and drypoint etching is definitely on my ‘must try’ list!

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