Artists are great innovators no matter what medium they work in. Even if their work can seem to cost a ton, you can be sure that they are always working on ways to cut down their astronomical materials costs (Foundations kids included). Luckily artists often share their materials remedies to the community and with little to no cost, voila! Amazing work.
Jenny Robinson is a master print-maker residing in California who shared some of her cheap steps to etching and dry-point alternatives. Using cold pressed, white illustration board and some basic Min-wax water based varnish she is able to make useful temporary printing plates that have tons of variations and useful qualities. Perhaps the best advantage is the relatively quick pace you can create huge etchings at using simple illustration board.
After varnishing and drying the board Jenny uses diamond point cutters and various scraping tools to achieve textures on her plate. Pealing the varnish off to create aquatint areas on her boards. Carborundum was used to create a thin grit and tonal values. While the board is cheap and may options are available to printers it is important to know that these plates will only last 5 to 8 prints due to the durability of the illustration board. You will also need to develop a feel for the plates as they print lighter than what you see.
For anyone getting into printmaking and not wanting to break the bank, or just students with new ideas, give it a try!