Engraving was born in the 15th century as a process called intaglio. First used by silversmiths to proof their intricate designs, the technique was soon adopted by fine artists as a unique way to express themselves. Artists and their patrons marveled at the fine detail possible with the intaglio technique. Even more, they admired the third dimensional effect created when the paper was permanently indented with every element in the design. The work had texture, substance, and quality.
Modern engraving uses high tech processes, but remains true to this centuries old tradition of craftsmanship. Photo engraving has to a large extent replaced hand etching. It produces sharp accurate images that precisely reproduce the finest detail. However, careful hand tooling is still used to refine sensitive details or remove excess plate materials.
Through a combination of photo etching and hand tooling, the depth and width of every part of the image can be individually defined. It’s a mix of modern technology, and ancient artistry that creates a product unequaled by other methods.
Engraving plates are made of copper, steel or brass. Because engraving presses must operate under high pressure, presses capable of covering a large image area are very expensive, so most engravers use plates with an image area no larger than 5 x 9 inches. However, engraving can be done on paper of any size through special presses, or sequential press runs. When an engraving plate or die is brought in contact with paper, much of the force is absorbed by a counter. This mirror image of the engraving plate forces the paper into the die ensuring total image transfer.
Embossing is a sister technique to engraving. No ink is used. Paper is pressed between counter and plate. A strong, and permanently raised image is created. The image is delineated by shadow and by feel resulting in a sophisticated design of extraordinary subtlety. In the careful hands of a master craftsman, embossing techniques can create striking, multi-level designs. The image becomes sculptured. The effect is unique and memorable.