For most Guild members, engraving is generally viewed as the most distinctive form of printing. Images are three-dimensional, crisp, bold and opaque. As distinct from other forms of printing, you seldom see blurred images and color distortions that often occur with other forms of printing. It is extraordinary to see the craftsmanship of printers using old Heidelberg presses to create papers of stunning beauty and precision. While more expensive than most other forms of printing, engraving produces a “wow” effect that is unmistakable. When using dark papers, engraving is generally the only printing option to produce the proper effect.
While hand-made dies continue to be made by artisans, most engraving dies are now created by etching. To create an engraving plate a photographic film containing the typeface is applied to the surface of the metal (generally copper). This plate is then dipped into an acid bath with the exposed metal surface reacting to the acid to create the etched impression. Resolutions of between 600 dpi and 1200 dpi are generally required to insure that the film image is of sufficient quality to create a serviceable plate. The end result is a hollowed-out image on a flat metal surface to receive the ink. Each color requires a separate metal die.
Ink collects in the hollowed-out areas of the plate that were created by the etching process. The surface of the plate is wiped clean and then paper is forced under great pressure into the hollowed areas containing the typeface to collect the ink. This process requires great craftsmanship and experience and when executed properly creates impressions of great beauty. The process is repeated again for each color.