The Craft of Engraving

engrave1

Developed around the 16th century, engraving or intaglio printing, is a method of printing an image from lines cut below the surface of a metal plate. The feel of an engraved piece happens when the paper is pressed into a metal plate. If you are a fan of engraving or thinking about using engraving on your next project, you’ll want to check out this amazing site from Neenah Paper dedicated to the craft: The Beauty of Engraving. The site has a comprehensive gallery including curated collections – the current featured gallery is curated by Jessica Hische.

Paper is meant to be touched, to see these techniques first hand, sign up to receive The Parcel.  In the meantime, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time your working on a project using engraving.

  • Engraving will give the sharpest image, the die is cut by hand, either chemically etched or burned via laser.
  • Photos and continuous tone illustrations are etched into a plate, image reproduction is as clear as lithography.
  • Engraving is not inexpensive, so it limits its applications – but plate sizes are small (limited to 5″ x 7″) and can maximize impact on a project.
  • Engravers use special inks for copper and steel dies; steel is often used for the longest print runs and higest quality. Limited quantities can be done with copper dies, up to about 5,000.
  • Know your paper stocks, coated papers tend to crack – so make sure you test the paper you’re using. Caution should also be taken if using laid papers as they can cause feathering. The engraver can compensate for this by adjusting the ink flow or pressure on the die.

engrave5

  • The quality of the paper is critical, because of the craftsmanship and sharpness, engraving requires fine papers – cotton or wove stocks offer the most beautiful results.
  • Always use match colors for engraving, four color process in not suitable with this technique – it uses different inks than litho inks.
  • The technique lends itself to using lighter inks on darker papers due to the high opacity of the engravers inks.
  • Be careful is using gloss inks, they can take on a metallic appearance.
  • Avoid trying to reproduce large areas of color – they can appear mottled or uneven. Instead, think about an outline of the image with a screen tint.
  • To eliminate the debossed impression engraving leaves on the back of envelopes, convert the envelopes after they’ve been engraved. Be sure the engraver prints the envelopes with the flaps open to avoid debossing.

engrave4