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How to Print Drypoint with a Palm Press and Akua Ink

drypoint plexiglass etching

Scotland artist Lucy Johnston wanted to know how my press works when I print drypoint with Akua inks. Lucy currently uses Akua ink and a die cutting machine to press her tiny, elegant prints. The pocket press would give her the ability to work larger, but the small rollers would also be well suited for pressing her delicate pieces, sometimes made using silver! Interestingly, Lucy mentioned that she prints her intaglio prints on dry paper because she has had difficulty getting Akua ink to adhere to damp paper when pressing her drypoints. She wanted to know if she’d run into the same problems with a pocket press. I’ve been wanting to learn more about printmaking inks, so I ordered some Akua and got to work.

I was eager to print right away so I used the bulk vellum paper I keep on hand. You only need to soak it a minute or two to get a great ink transfer every time. This happened with the Akua ink too. I think I’ll start including some of this paper with my press kits, come to think of it. Here’s a video of this print run. You can see how much less messy it is when you have a Magic Platen to hold your plate while you ink it up.


In the video you can see that I lifted my paper up several times. First, I began to lift the paper and I saw that I wanted more ink the adhere in one area, so I pressed that section again. Then I decided to try lifting the paper and re-pressing just to see if it would cause a double impression. It did not. This means you can lay your paper back down and press more when you’re using the Magic Platen and Pocket Press. This is simply not an option when using a traditional etching press.
Then I realized that Lucy probably isn’t using inexpensive vellum for her etchings so I decided to try the Akua inks with Kelsey Pike’s All paper. This is going to behave more like Reeves or another thick, cottony printmaking paper. I’d like to compare Pike and Reeves papers because I have a feeling that Kelsey’s paper will win. It just feels fresh. But that is a blog for another day.
I soaked the All Paper for about 10 minutes and turned out another print. It wasn’t a bad print, but it was a little bit light. I could see what Lucy meant about Akua ink having an issue with damp paper. Upon very close inspection it almost looked like the ink resisted adhering, like you’d think an oil based ink would act, but for whatever reason, doesn’t. There was only one more thing to try: soaking the paper longer.
I let the paper soak for nearly an hour and turned out a great looking print. When pressing drypoint with Akua ink, I recommend soaking your standard high quality printmaking paper about 45 minutes, if not an hour. Or you can try using some Bristol or Vellum if you’re short on time.
drypoint plexiglass etching
akua ink intaglio etching
You don’t have to soak as long when using other intaglio plates, though it probably won’t hurt. I soaked the paper for about 20 minutes before pressing printmaker Erika Chamberlin’s acid etched plate and got a nice print.
printing etching dry paper
Then I got curious. If Lucy wanted to know if the Pocket Press can press etchings with
damp paper using Akua ink- that means she prints her miniature drypoint plates on dry paper. I wondered: can my press print drypoint etchings without dampening the paper? I have to say, this is not too shabby for an intaglio with bone dry paper.
After many print runs with my Pocket Press and Magic Platen, I can’t believe this is the first time I realized that when you’re using a larger or heavier plate, like my 6” x 9” plexi plate or Erika’s 4” x 3” zinc plate, you can ink it and wipe the plate directly on the platen board without holding it. No inky fingers! When you apply pressure to objects on the Magic Platen, they respond by resisting movement. As you can see in the video, the plate just stayed put on the platen while inked it and wiped it. This also explains why I was also able to lay my paper back down and press my plate more without getting double impression. The Platen just doesn’t want your plate to budge.
Are you a printmaker with a question about my press? Send me a message at diana (at) printmaking press (dot) com. Learn more about my pocket presses at