What is etching or dry point?

The main and the important difference between an Etching and a Drypoint is the quality of the line.

   But; technically the differences are as follows:

   " Etching" is the process of using acids to eat away selected area's of a metal plate. This technique is called "Intaglio". (the "G" is silent). Intaglio is Latin and means: Below the surface.

   Lets assume I want to make an etching of a single line, drawn right to left, side to side.

Etchings are typically produced using a Zinc or Copper plate.

1. One side of the plate is coated with a very dark brown, wax solution called "Asphaltum". This coating dries very thin.

2. Using a sewing needle, a single line is drawn from right to left, side to side across the plate. The needle cuts through the asphaltum, exposing the metal plate. I'm not trying to scratch the metal; I'm just cutting through the asphaltum to expose the surface of the metal.

3. The plate is placed into a shallow vat of acid ( nitric or hydrochloric ) for around 20 minutes. The acid cannot reach the plate where the asphaltum is but where the single line was drawn across the place, the acid "eats" a shallow groove into the surface of the metal plate.

4.  The asphaltum is removed with mineral spirit thinner.

5. The plate is now ready to make a print.


   A "Drypoint" is a print too but no asphaltum, and no acid is used to create the line. Therefore they cannot be called an "etching". Also; Drypoints are not "intaglio (below the surface).

1.   Because a sharp pointed tool is used to essentially "gouge" a line into the metal, some of the metal is displaced and a good portion of the metal is forced above the surface of the plate. Again, because metal has been forced above the surface, drypoints are NOT intaglio.

   What makes a "Drypoint" line appear so soft when compared to a sharp edged line created by acid"etching" is that the metal that is above the surface traps ink, which when prepared for printing, feathers the edge of the line making it appear very soft.