Amanda Rosa Blanca R. Arevalo
9 January 2013
BSIT – 201P
Research about the following topics :
Graphic process is the art of eliminating all the extraneous visuals, and bringing the piece of
work down to its bare essentials, with enough information left to leave a strong impression on
the viewer. It is where you make a statement for the business man, company, corporation, and
at the same time stamp a visual identity into the public mind.
An example is the logo for the Canadian National Railway. The CN logo is one continuous line of
a constant width throughout the entire track. It spells out CN and at the same time it simply
evokes a track in an even flow giving the simple and effective message of a train track.
It is a classic example of graphic identity for a company.
The most common way of communicating a piece of art is through printing. Printmaking is the
process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only
the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a
photographic reproduction of an artwork.
Prints can be classified according to the type of surface used to make them. Those with raised
printing surfaces are known as relief prints. Here, ink is applied to the original surface of the
matrix. Woodcuts are the most common type of relief print. When the printing surface is below
the surface of the plate, the print technique is classified as intaglio. Etching and engraving are
important intaglio techniques where ink is applied beneath the original surface of the matrix.
Another classification of prints is the Planographic and stencil methods. These methods print
from a surface that is at the same level as the non-printing surface. In a Planographic method,
the matrix retains its original surface, but is specially prepared and/or inked to allow for the
transfer of the image such as in the case of lithography, monotyping, and digital techniques.
In a stencil method, ink or paint is pressed through a prepared screen. As in screenprinting and
The table below summarizes the different graphic processes :
Original Graphic Arts Processes
mezzotint, etching, Lithograph
What Area Prints:
Prints what is below Prints what is
Prints what is left of
the surface of the drawn on the
the original surface
Prints open areas of
Type of Press:
Manual pressure or
Lith Press (sliding,
are usually hand
Wood or linoleum
block or other film
Silk, nylon, etc.
rubbing ink, etc.
block or film)
Knife, gouge, burin, Etching needles,
Etching is a process of relief printmaking developed in the 16th century. Traditionally regarded
as the noblest technique in the graphic arts, the process of etching is also known as "biting". A
drawing is bitten, that is, a mordant or strong acid is used as an etching agent to inscribe or cut
into the unprotected parts of a metal surface or plate to create a design in intaglio in the metal.
In modern manufacturing, other chemicals may be used on other types of materials.
In pure etching, a metal, usually copper, zinc or steel plate, is covered with a waxy ground which
is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where
he or she wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The échoppe,
a tool with a slanted oval section, is also used for "swelling" lines. The plate is then dipped in a
bath of acid, technically called the mordant, a French word for "biting" or etchant, or has acid
washed over it. The acid "bites" into the metal, where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk
into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over,
and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines.
The plate is then put through a high-pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper,
often moistened to soften it. The paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print.
The process can be repeated many times, typically several hundred impressions or copies could
be printed before the plate shows much sign of wear. The work on the plate can also be added
to by repeating the whole process, creating an etching which exists in more than one state.
In mordant etching, the etching plate is coated with an acid-resistant etching ground. This acidresistant etching ground or resist consists in a mixture of wax, mastix and asphalt (bitumen).
After application of the resist, the drawing is lightly incised with needle (steel-etching needle) or
a roulette in the resist down to the bare copper or steel of the plate. The plate is now immersed
in an acid bath (the acids most common used for this purpose are nitric acid and hydrochloric
acid; also Dutch mordant, which is a solution of potassium chlorate and hydrochloric acid), in
which the exposed metal is etched. The longer the plate is left in the acid, the deeper the lines
etched in the metal so that they later produce a more intense and darker print. If desired that
only some parts of the drawing should stand out more vividly in the print, the other bare places
on the plate are stopped out with special varnish to protect the parts that are not to be bitten
again and the plate is once again immersed in the acid bath. A single plate can, therefore, be
bitten several times to attain subtle gradations from the palest grey to velvety black. After the
etching ground has been removed, the plate is subjected to the same procedure used in other
relief-printing processes - such as copperplate engraving - and inked with a dabber. The ink can
be rubbed (wiped) so that ink is only left in the most deeply incised lines for printing. Under the
application of pressure from the press, the ink on the plate leaves its imprint on moistened
Relief-printing etching techniques include not just mordant etching but also :
Aquatint - A copper plate is protected by a
powdered ground that is melted onto the surface
of the plate. It is acid resistant, but covers
incompletely, resulting in a grainy surface texture.
The longer the plate is left in the acid bath, the
darker and heavier the texture will become. It is
usually combined with a standard etching ground
that permits lines and clear white areas as well.
The final effect is an image on a fine pebbled background (imparted by the porous
ground). Aquatint is usually employed in combination with line etching when subtle
value gradations are desired.
Soft-ground etching - The crayon manner: incorporating chalk features. Soft-ground
etching uses a special softer ground. The artist places a piece of paper, or cloth in
modern uses, over the ground and draws on it. The print resembles a drawing.
Vernis mou - Another form of soft-ground etching: the plate is coated with an etching
ground that is at least half tallow, therefore greasy
A special form of etching is drypoint etching, which operates without acids, that is, the lines are
merely drawn under the exertion of great pressure by the drypoint needle, resulting in delicate,
In this technique, the sunken lines are produced directly by diamond-hard tools pulled across
the plate. The depth of line is controlled by the artist's muscle and experience. The method of
cutting produces a ridge along the incisions, called burr. This gives the dry-point line the
characteristically soft, velvety appearance absent in the clean edged lines of an engraving or
Modern Techniques in Etching
A waxy acid-resist, known as a ground, is applied
to a metal plate, most often copper or zinc, but
steel plate is another medium with different
qualities. There are two common types of ground:
hard ground and soft ground.
Hard ground can be applied in two ways. Solid
hard ground comes in a hard waxy block. To apply hard ground of this variety, the plate
to be etched is placed upon a hot-plate (set at 70 degrees C), a kind of metal worktop
that is heated up. The plate heats up and the ground is applied by hand, melting onto
the plate as it is applied. The ground is spread over the plate as evenly as possible using
a roller. Once applied the etching plate is removed from the hot-plate and allowed to
cool which hardens the ground.
After the ground has hardened the artist "smokes" the plate, classically with 3 beeswax
tapers, applying the flame to the plate to darken the ground and make it easier to see
what parts of the plate are exposed. Smoking not only darkens the plate but adds a
small amount of wax. Afterwards the artist uses a sharp tool to scratch into the ground,
exposing the metal.
The second way to apply hard ground is by liquid hard ground. This comes in a can and is
applied with a brush upon the plate to be etched. Exposed to air the hard ground will
harden. Some printmakers use oil/tar basedasphaltum or bitumen as hard ground,
although often bitumen is used to protect steel plates from rust and copper plates from
Soft ground also comes in liquid form and is allowed to dry but it does not dry hard like
hard ground and is impressionable. After the soft ground has dried the printmaker may
apply materials such as leaves, objects, hand prints and so on which will penetrate the
soft ground and expose the plate underneath.
The ground can also be applied in a fine mist, using powdered rosin or spraypaint. This
process is called aquatint, and allows for the creation of tones, shadows, and solid areas
The design is then drawn (in reverse) with an etching-needle or échoppe. An "echoppe"
point can be made from an ordinary tempered steel etching needle, by grinding the
point back on a carborundum stone, at a 45–60 degree angle. The "echoppe" works on
the same principle that makes a fountain pen's line more attractive than a ballpoint's:
The slight swelling variation caused by the natural movement of the hand "warms up"
the line, and although hardly noticeable in any individual line, has a very attractive
overall effect on the finished plate. It can be drawn with in the same way as an ordinary
The plate is then completely submerged in an acid that eats away at the exposed metal.
Ferric chloride may be used for etching copper or zinc plates, whereas nitric acid may be
used for etching zinc or steel plates. Typical solutions are 2 parts FeCl3 to 2 parts water
and 1 part nitric to 3 parts water. The strength of the acid determines the speed of the
Growing concerns about the health effects of acids and solvents led to the development
of less toxic etching methods in the late 20th century. An early innovation was the use
of floor wax as a hard ground for coating the plate. Others, such as printmakers Mark
Zaffron and Keith Howard, developed systems using acrylic polymers as a ground and
ferric chloride for etching. The polymers are removed with sodium carbonate (washing
soda) solution, rather than solvents. When used for etching, ferric chloride does not
produce a corrosive gas, as acids do, thus eliminating another danger of traditional
The traditional aquatint, which uses either powdered rosin or enamel spray paint, is
replaced with an airbrush application of the acrylic polymer hard ground. Again, no
solvents are needed beyond the soda ash solution, though a ventilation hood is needed
due to acrylic particulates from the air brush spray.
The traditional soft ground, requiring solvents for removal from the plate, is replaced
with water-based relief printing ink. The ink receives impressions like traditional soft
ground, resists the ferric chloride etchant, yet can be cleaned up with warm water and
either soda ash solution or ammonia.
Anodic etching has been used in industrial processes for over a century. The etching
power is a source of direct current. The item to be etched (anode) is connected to its
positive pole. A receiver plate (cathode) is connected to its negative pole. Both, spaced
slightly apart, are immersed in a suitable aqueous solution of a suitable electrolyte. The
current pushes the metal out from the anode into solution and deposits it as metal on
the cathode. Shortly before 1990, two groups working independently developed
different ways of applying it to creating intaglio printing plates.
In the patented Electroetch system, invented by Marion and Omri Behr, in contrast to
certain nontoxic etching methods, an etched plate can be reworked as often as the
artist desires. The system uses voltages below 2 volts which exposes the uneven metal
crystals in the etched areas resulting in superior ink retention and printed image
appearance of quality equivalent to traditional acid methods. With polarity reversed the
low voltage provides a simpler method of making mezzotint plates as well as the "steel
facing" copper plates.
Some of the earliest printmaking workshops experimenting with, developing and
promoting nontoxic techniques include Grafisk Eksperimentarium, in Copenhagen,
Denmark, Edinburgh Printmakers, in Scotland, and New Grounds Print Workshop, in
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Light sensitive polymer plates allow for photorealistic
etchings. A photo-sensitive coating is applied to the
plate by either the plate supplier or the artist. Light is
projected onto the plate as a negative image to expose
it. Photopolymer plates are either washed in hot water
or under other chemicals according to the plate
manufacturers' instructions. Areas of the photo-etch
image may be stopped-out before etching to exclude
them from the final image on the plate, or removed or
lightened by scraping and burnishing once the plate has been etched. Once the photoetching process is complete, the plate can be worked further as a normal intaglio plate,
using drypoint, further etching, engraving, etc. The final result is an intaglio plate which
is printed like any other.
Types of Metal Plates Used in Etching
Copper is a traditional metal, and is still preferred, for etching, as it bites evenly, holds
texture well, and does not distort the color of the ink when wiped. Zinc is cheaper than
copper, so preferable for beginners, but it does not bite as cleanly as copper, and it
alters some colors of ink. Steel is growing in popularity as an etching substrate. Prices of
copper and zinc have steered steel to an acceptable alternative. The line quality of steel
is less fine than copper but finer than zinc. Steel has a natural and rich aquatint.
The type of metal used for the plate impacts the number of prints the plate will
produce. The firm pressure of the printing press slowly rubs out the finer details of the
image with every pass through. With relatively soft copper, for example, the etching
details will begin to wear very quickly, some copper plates show extreme wear after
only ten prints. Steel, on the other hand, is incredibly durable. This wearing out of the
image over time is one of the reasons prints created early in a numbered series tend to
be valued more highly. The total number of prints an artist would like to produce are
taken in to account when choosing the metal.
Controlling the Effects of Acid
There are many ways for the printmaker to
control the acid's effects. Most typically, the
surface of the plate is covered in a hard, waxy
'ground' that resists acid. The printmaker then
scratches through the ground with a sharp point,
exposing lines of metal that are attacked by the
Aquatint - Aquatint is a variation in which
particulate resin is evenly distributed on the plate,
then heated to form a screen ground of uniform
but less than perfect density. After etching, any
exposed surface will result in a roughened (i.e.
darkened) surface. Areas that are to be light in the final print are protected by
varnishing between acid baths. Successive turns of varnishing and placing the plate in
acid create areas of tone difficult or impossible to achieve by drawing through a wax
Sugar lift - Here designs in a syrupy solution
of sugar or Camp Coffee are painted onto the
metal surface prior to it being coated in a
liquid etching ground or 'stop out' varnish.
When later the plate is placed in hot water
the sugar dissolves and lifts off leaving the
image. The plate can then be etched.
Spit bite - A mixture of nitric acid and Gum
Arabic (or almost never - saliva) which can be
dripped, spattered or painted onto a metal surface giving interesting results. A mixture
of nitric acid and rosin can also be used.
Industrial Uses of Etching
Etching is also used in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards and semiconductor
devices , on glass, and in the preparation of metallic specimens for microscopic
Silk Screen Printing
Screen printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking
stencil. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh that transfer ink or other printable
materials which can be pressed through the mesh as a sharp-edged image onto a substrate. A fill
blade or squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing or pumping ink into the mesh
openings for transfer by capillary action during the squeegee stroke. Basically, it is the process of
using a stencil to apply ink onto another material.
Screen printing is also a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a screen
of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance. Ink is
forced into the mesh openings by the fill blade or squeegee and onto
the printing surface during the squeegee stroke. It is also known
as silkscreen, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. A number of screens
can be used to produce a multicolored image.
Silk screen is a type of stencil. This technique first came into use in the
early 20th century. The artist prepares a tightly stretched screen,
usually of silk, and blocks out areas not to be printed by filling up the
mesh of the screen with a varnish-like substance (or any number of
other materials which would block up the pores of the fabric). Paper is placed under the screen
and ink forced through the still-open mesh onto the paper. This technique is also widely used on
textiles, including T-shirts.
Screen printing is a form of stenciling that first appeared in a recognizable form
in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD). It was then adapted by other Asian
countries like Japan, and was furthered by creating newer methods.
Screen printing was largely introduced to Western Europe from Asia sometime in the
late 18th century, but did not gain large acceptance or use in Europe until silk mesh was
more available for trade from the east and a profitable outlet for the medium
A group of artists later formed the National Serigraphic Society coined the word
Serigraphy in the 1930s to differentiate the artistic application of screen printing from
the industrial use of the process. "Serigraphy" is a combination word from the Latin
word "Seri" (silk) and the Greek word "graphein" (to write or draw).
Credit is generally given to the artist Andy Warhol for popularizing screen printing
identified as serigraphy, in the United States. Warhol is particularly identified with his
1962 depiction of actress Marilyn Monroe screen printed in garish colors.
Graphic screen printing is widely used today to create many mass or large batch
produced graphics, such as posters or display stands. Full color prints can be created by
printing in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black ('key')).
Screen printing lends itself well to printing on canvas. Andy Warhol, Rob
Ryan, Blexbolex, Arthur Okamura, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Harry
Gottlieb, and many other artists have used screen printing as an expression of creativity
and artistic vision.
F. Printed image
A screen is made of a piece of mesh stretched over a frame. A stencil is formed by
blocking off parts of the screen in the negative image of the design to be printed; that is,
the open spaces are where the ink will appear on the substrate.
Before printing occurs, the frame and screen must undergo the pre-press process, in
which an emulsion is 'scooped' across the mesh and the 'exposure unit' burns away the
unnecessary emulsion leaving behind a clean area in the mesh with the identical shape
as the desired image. The surface (commonly referred to as a pallet) that the substrate
will be printed against is coated with a wide 'pallet tape'. This serves to protect the
'pallet' from any unwanted ink leaking through the substrate and potentially staining the
'pallet' or transferring unwanted ink onto the next substrate. Next, the screen and frame
are lined with a tape. The type of tape used in for this purpose often depends upon the
ink that is to be printed onto the substrate. These aggressive tapes are generally used
for UV and water-based inks due to the inks' lower viscosities. The last process in the
'pre-press' is blocking out any unwanted 'pin-holes' in the emulsion. If these holes are
left in the emulsion, the ink will continue through and leave unwanted marks. To block
out these holes, materials such as tapes, specialty emulsions and 'block-out pens' may
be used effectively.
The screen is placed atop a substrate. Ink is placed on top of the screen, and a floodbar
is used to push the ink through the holes in the mesh. The operator begins with the fill
bar at the rear of the screen and behind a reservoir of ink. The operator lifts the screen
to prevent contact with the substrate and then using a slight amount of downward force
pulls the fill bar to the front of the screen. This effectively fills the mesh openings with
ink and moves the ink reservoir to the front of the screen. The operator then uses
a squeegee (rubber blade) to move the mesh down to the substrate and pushes the
squeegee to the rear of the screen. The ink that is in the mesh opening is pumped or
squeezed by capillary action to the substrate in a controlled and prescribed amount, i.e.
the wet ink deposit is proportional to the thickness of the mesh and or stencil. As the
squeegee moves toward the rear of the screen the tension of the mesh pulls the mesh
up away from the substrate (called snap-off) leaving the ink upon the substrate surface.
There are three common types of screenprinting presses. The 'flat-bed', 'cylinder', and
the most widely used type, the 'rotary'.
Textile items printed with multi-colour designs often use a wet on wet technique, or
colors dried while on the press, while graphic items are allowed to dry between colours
that are then printed with another screen and often in a different color after the
product is re-aligned on the press.
Most screens are ready for recoating at this stage, but sometimes screens will have to
undergo a further step in the reclaiming process called dehazing. This additional step
removes haze or "ghost images" left behind in the screen once the emulsion has been
removed. Ghost images tend to faintly outline the open areas of previous stencils, hence
the name. They are the result of ink residue trapped in the mesh, often in the knuckles
of the mesh (the points where threads cross).
While the public thinks of garments in conjunction with screenprinting, the technique is
used on tens of thousands of items, including decals, clock and watch faces, balloons,
and many other products. The technique has even been adapted for more advanced
uses, such as laying down conductors and resistors in multi-layer circuits using thin
ceramic layers as the substrate.
A method of stenciling that has increased in popularity over
the past years is the photo emulsion technique:
1. The original image is created on a transparent
overlay, and the image may be drawn or painted
directly on the overlay, photocopied, or printed
with a computer printer, but making so that the
areas to be inked are not transparent. A blackand-white positive may also be used (projected on
to the screen). However, unlike traditional
platemaking, these screens are normally exposed
by using film positives.
A macro photo of a screenprint
with a photographically
produced stencil. The ink will be
printed where the stencil does not
cover the substrate.
2. A screen must then be selected. There are several different mesh counts that can be
used depending on the detail of the design being printed. Once a screen is selected,
the screen must be coated with emulsion and put to dry in a dark room. Once dry, it
is then possible to burn/expose the print.
3. The overlay is placed over the screen, and then exposed with a light source
containing ultraviolet light in the 350-420 nanometer spectrum.
4. The screen is washed off thoroughly. The areas of emulsion that were not exposed
to light dissolve and wash away, leaving a negative stencil of the image on the mesh.
Screen Printing Materials
Caviar beads - a glue is printed in the shape of the design, to which small plastic
beads are then applied – works well with solid block areas creating an interesting
Cracking ink - the ink produces a cracked surface after drying.
Discharge inks - used to print lighter colors onto dark background fabrics, they work
by removing the dye in the garment – this means they leave a much softer texture.
They are less graphic in nature than plastisol inks, and exact colors are difficult to
control, but especially good for distressed prints and underbasing on dark garments
that are to be printed with additional layers of plastisol.
Expanding ink (puff) - an additive to plastisol inks which raises the print off the
garment, creating a 3D feel.
Flocking - consists of a glue printed onto the fabric and then foil or flock (or other
special effect) material is applied for a mirror finish or a velvet touch.
Four color process or the CMYK color model - artwork is created and then
separated into four colors (CMYK) which combine to create the full spectrum of
colors needed for photographic prints. This means a large number of colors can be
simulated using only 4 screens, reducing costs, time, and set-up. The inks are
required to blend and are more translucent, meaning a compromise with vibrancy
Glitter/Shimmer - metallic flakes are suspended in the ink base to create this
sparkle effect. Usually available in gold or silver but can be mixed to make most
Gloss - a clear base laid over previously printed inks to create a shiny finish.
Metallic - similar to glitter, but smaller particles suspended in the ink. A glue is
printed onto the fabric, then nanoscale fibers applied on it.
Mirrored silver - A highly reflective, solvent based ink.
Nylobond - a special ink additive for printing onto technical or waterproof fabrics.
Plastisol - the most common ink used in commercial garment decoration. Good
color opacity onto dark garments and clear graphic detail with, as the name
suggests, a more plasticized texture. This print can be made softer with special
additives or heavier by adding extra layers of ink. Plastisol inks require heat (approx.
150°C (300°F) for many inks) to cure the print.
PVC and Phthalate Free - relatively new breed of ink and printing with the benefits
of plastisol but without the two main toxic components. Has a soft texture.
Suede Ink - Suede is a milky colored additive that is added to plastisol. With suede
additive you can make any color of plastisol have a suede feel. It is actually a puff
blowing agent that does not bubble as much as regular puff ink. The directions vary
from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally up to 50% suede can be added to
Water-Based inks - these penetrate the fabric more than the plastisol inks and
create a much softer feel. Ideal for printing darker inks onto lighter coloured
garments. Also useful for larger area prints where texture is important. Some inks
require heat or an added catalyst to make the print permanent.
Screenprinting is more versatile than traditional printing techniques. The surface does
not have to be printed under pressure, unlike etching orlithography, and it does not have to be
planar. Different inks can be used to work with a variety of materials, such as textiles, ceramics,
wood, paper, glass, metal, and plastic. As a result, screenprinting is used in many different
Printed electronics, including circuit board printing
Signs and displays
Thick film technology
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves
into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are
engraved, or may provide anintaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing
images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called engravings.
Engraving was a historically important method of producing images on paper, both in
artistic printmaking, and also for commercial reproductions and illustrations for books and
magazines. It has long been replaced by various photographic processes in its commercial
applications and, partly because of the difficulty of learning the technique, is much less common
in printmaking, where it has been largely replaced by etching and other techniques.
Traditional engraving, by burin or with the use of machines, continues to be practiced
by goldsmiths, glass engravers, gunsmiths and others, while modern industrial techniques such
as photoengraving and laser engraving have many important applications. Engraved gems were
an important art in the ancient world, revived at the Renaissance, although the term
traditionally covers relief as well as intaglio carvings, and is essentially a branch of sculpture
rather than engraving, as drills were the usual tools.
History of Engraving
The first evidence for humans engraving patterns are hatched banding upon ostrich
eggshells used as water containers found in South Africa in the Diepkloof Rock
Shelter and dated to the Middle Stone Age around 60,000 BP. Engraving on bone and
ivory is an important technique for the Art of the Upper Paleolithic, and larger
engraved petroglyphs on rocks are found from many prehistoric periods and cultures
around the world.
In antiquity, the only engraving on metal that could be carried out is the shallow grooves
found in some jewelry after the beginning of the 1st Millennium B.C. The majority of so-called
engraved designs on ancient gold rings or other items were produced by chasing or sometimes a
combination of lost-wax casting and chasing. Engraved gem is a term for any carved or engraved
semi-precious stone; this was an important small-scale art form in the ancient world, and
remained popular until the 19th century.
However the use of glass engraving, usually using a wheel, to cut decorative scenes or figures
into glass vessels, in imitation of hard stone carvings, appears as early as the first century AD,
continuing into the fourth century CE at urban centers such as Cologne and Rome, and appears
to have ceased sometime in the fifth century. Decoration was first based on Greek mythology,
before hunting and circus scenes became popular, as well as imagery drawn from the Old and
New Testament. It appears to have been used to mimic the appearance of precious metal wares
during the same period, including the application of gold leaf, and could be cut free-hand or
with lathes. As many as twenty separate stylistic workshops have been identified, and it seems
likely that the engraver and vessel producer were separate craftsmen.
In the European Middle Ages goldsmiths used engraving to decorate and inscribe metalwork. It
is thought that they began to print impressions of their designs to record them. From this grew
the engraving of copper printing plates to produce artistic images on paper, known as old
master prints in Germany in the 1430s. Italy soon followed. Many early engravers came from a
goldsmithing background. The first and greatest period of the engraving was from about 1470 to
1530, with such masters as Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, and Lucas van Leiden.
Thereafter engraving tended to lose ground to etching, which was a much easier technique for
the artist to learn. But many prints combined the two techniques: although Rembrandt's prints
are generally all called etchings for convenience, many of them have some burin or drypoint
work, and some have nothing else. By the nineteenth century, most engraving was for
Before the advent of photography, engraving was used to reproduce other forms of art, for
example paintings. Engravings continued to be common in newspapers and many books into the
early 20th century, as they were cheaper to use in printing than photographic images. Engraving
has also always been used as a method of original artistic expression.
Many classic postage stamps were engraved, although the practice is now mostly confined to
particular countries, or used when a more "elegant" design is desired and a limited color range
During the mid-1900s, a renaissance in hand-engraving began to take place. With the inventions
of pneumatic hand-engraving systems that aided hand-engravers, the art and techniques of
hand-engraving became more accessible. In the years past, hand-engraving was an extremely
secretive art where masters would carefully and rarely choose apprentices to pass on the trade.
Even into the 1970s, many engravers were reluctant to share trade secrets and kept methods
The first music printed from engraved plates dates from 1446 and most printed
music was produced through engraving from roughly 1700–1860. From 1860–
1990 most printed music was produced through a combination of engraved
master plates reproduced through offset lithography.
Hand engraving is a term for engraving not used
for printing plates, but to personalize or
embellish jewelry, firearms, trophies, knives and
other fine metal goods. Each graver is different
and has its own use. Engravers use a hardened
steel tool called a burin, or graver, to cut the
Different Hand Engraving Tools
design into the surface, most traditionally a copper plate. However, modern hand
engraving artists use burins or gravers to cut a variety of metals such as silver, nickel,
steel, brass, gold, titanium, and more, in applications from weaponry to jewelry to
motorcycles to found objects. Professional engravers engrave with resolution of up to
40 lines per mm in high grade work creating game scenes and scrollwork. Dies used in
mass production of molded parts are sometimes hand engraved to add special touches
or certain information such as part numbers.
In addition to hand engraving, there are engraving machines that require less human
finesse and are not directly controlled by hand. They are usually used for lettering, using
a pantographic system. There are versions for the insides of rings and also the outsides
of larger pieces. Such machines are commonly used for inscriptions on rings, lockets and
Tools and Gravers or Burins
Gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes that yield different line types. The
burin produces a unique and recognizable quality of line that is characterized by
its steady, deliberate appearance and clean edges. The angle tint tool has a
slightly curved tip that is commonly used in printmaking. Florentine liners are
flat-bottomed tools with multiple lines incised into them, used to do fill work on
larger areas or to create uniform shade lines that are fast to execute. Ring
gravers are made with particular shapes that are used by jewelry engravers in
order to cut inscriptions inside rings. Flat gravers are used for fill work on
letters, as well as "wriggle" cuts on most musical instrument engraving work,
remove background, or create bright cuts. Knife gravers are for line engraving
and very deep cuts. Round gravers, and flat gravers with a radius, are commonly
used on silver to create bright cuts (also called bright-cut engraving), as well as
other hard-to-cut metals such as nickel and steel. Square or V-point gravers are
typically square or elongated diamond-shaped and used for cutting straight
lines. V-point can be anywhere from 60 to 130 degrees, depending on purpose
and effect. These gravers have very small cutting points. Other tools such
as mezzotintrockers, roulets and burnishers are used for texturing effects.
Burnishing tools can also be used for certain stone setting techniques.
Tool geometry is extremely important for accuracy in hand engraving. When
sharpened for most applications, a graver has a "face", which is the top of the
graver, and a "heel", which is the bottom of the graver; not all tools or
application require a heel. These two surfaces meet to form a point that cuts
the metal. The geometry and length of the heel helps to guide the graver
smoothly as it cuts the surface of the metal. When the tool's point breaks or
chips, even on a microscopic level, the graver can become hard to control and
produce unexpected results.
Sharpening a graver or burin requires either a sharpening stone or wheel.
Harder carbide and steel gravers require diamond-grade sharpening wheels;
these gravers can be polished to a mirror finish using a ceramic or cast iron lap,
which is essential in creating bright cuts. Several low-speed, reversible
sharpening system made specifically for hand engravers are available that
reduce sharpening time. Fixtures that secure the tool in place at certain angles
and geometries are also available to take the guesswork from sharpening to
produce accurate points. Very few master engravers exist today who rely solely
on "feel" and muscle memory to sharpen tools. These master engravers typically
worked for many years as an apprentice, most often learning techniques
decades before modern machinery was available for hand engravers. These
engravers typically trained in such countries as Italy and Belgium, where hand
engraving has a rich and long heritage of masters.
Design or artwork is generally prepared in advance, although some professional
and highly experienced hand engravers are able to draw out minimal outlines
either on paper or directly on the metal surface just prior to engraving. The
work to be engraved may be lightly scribed on the surface with a sharp point,
laser marked, drawn with a fine permanent marker (removable with acetone) or
pencil, transferred using various chemicals in conjunction with inkjet or laser
printouts, or stippled. New transfer methods, as well as engraving techniques,
are shared often in online forums such as The Engraver's Cafe or the Ganoksin
forums. Engraving artists may either rely on hand drawing skills, copyright-free
designs and images, computer-generated artwork, or common design elements
when creating artworks.
Originally, handpieces varied little in design as the common use was to push
with the handle placed firmly in the center of the palm. With modern pneumatic
engraving systems, handpieces are designed and created in a variety of shapes
and power ranges. Handpieces are made using various methods and materials.
Knobs may be handmade from wood, molded and engineered from plastic, or
machine-made from brass, steel, or other metals.
Cutting the Surface
The actual engraving is traditionally done by a combination of pressure and
manipulating the workpiece. The traditional "hand push" process is still
practiced today, but modern technology has brought various mechanically
assisted engraving systems. Most pneumatic engraving systems require an air
source that drives air through a hose into a handpiece, which resembles a
traditional engraving handle in many cases, that powers a mechanism (usually a
piston). The air is actuated by either a foot control (like a gas pedal or sewing
machine) or newer palm / hand control. This mechanism replaces either the
"hand push" effort or the effects of a hammer. The internal mechanisms move
at speeds up to 15,000 strokes per minute, thereby greatly reducing the effort
needed in traditional hand engraving. These types of pneumatic systems are
used for power assistance only and do not guide or control the engraving artist.
One of the major benefits of using a pneumatic system for hand engraving is the
reduction of fatigue and decrease in time spent working.
In traditional engraving, which is a purely linear medium, the impression of halftones was created by making many very thin parallel lines, a technique called
hatching. When two sets of parallel-line hatchings intersected each other for
higher density, the resulting pattern was known as cross-hatching. Patterns of
dots were also used in a technique called stippling, first used around 1505.
Finishing the work is often necessary when working in metal that may rust or
where a colored finish is desirable, such as a firearm. A variety of spray lacquers
and finishing techniques exist to seal and protect the work from exposure to the
elements and time. Finishing also may include lightly sanding the surface to
remove small chips of metal called "burs" that are very sharp and unsightly.
Some engravers prefer high contrast to the work or design, using black paints or
inks to darken removed (and lower) areas of exposed metal. The excess paint or
ink is wiped away and allowed to dry before lacquering or sealing, which may or
may not be desired by the artist.
Modern Hand Engraving
Because of the high level of
microscopic detail that can be
achieved by a master engraver,
counterfeiting of engraved designs is
well-nigh impossible, and modern
banknotes are almost always
engraved, as are plates for printing
Modern Hand Engraving Tool
money, checks, bonds and other
security-sensitive papers. The engraving is so fine that a normal printer cannot
recreate the detail of hand engraved images, nor can it be scanned. In the U.S.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing, more than one hand engraver will work on
the same plate, making it nearly impossible for one person to duplicate all the
engraving on a particular banknote or document.
Computer-Aided Machine Engraving
Engraving machines such as the K500 (packaging) or K6 (publication) by Hell
Gravure Systems use a diamond stylus to cut cells. Each cell creates one printing
dot later in the process. They are fully computer-controlled and the whole
process of cylinder-making is fully automated.
It is now common place for retail stores (mostly jewelers, silverware or award
stores) to have a small computer controlled engrave on site. This enables them
to personalize the products they sell. Retail engraving machines tend to be
focused around ease of use for the operator and the ability to do a wide variety
of items including flat metal plates, jewelry of different shapes and sizes, as well
as cylindrical items such as mugs and tankards. They will typically be equipped
with a computer dedicated to graphic design that will enable the operator to
easily design a text or picture graphic which the software will translate into
digital signals telling the engraver machine what to do. Unlike industrial
engravers, retail machines are smaller and only use one diamond head. This is
interchangeable so the operator can use differently shaped diamonds for
different finishing effects. They will typically be able to do a variety of metals
and plastics. Glass and crystal engraving is possible, but the brittle nature of the
material makes the process more time consuming.
Retail engravers mainly use two different processes. The first and most common
'Diamond Drag' pushes the diamond cutter through the surface of the material
and then pulls to create scratches. These direction and depth are controlled by
the computer input. The second is 'Spindle Cutter'. This is similar to Diamond
Drag, but the engraving head is shaped in a flat V shape, with a small diamond
and the base. The machine uses an electronic simple to quickly rotate the head
as it pushes it into the material, then pulls it along whilst it continues to spin.
This creates a much bolder impression than diamond drag. It is used mainly for
brass plaques and pet tags.
With state-of-the-art machinery it's easy to have a simple, single item complete
in under ten minutes. Although the engraving process with diamonds is state-ofthe-art since the 1960s and laser engraving machines are in development,
mechanical cutting has still proven its strength in economical terms and quality.
Engraving Applications Today
Engraving today is used largely in :
creating text on the inside of engagement- and wedding rings to include text
such as the name of the partner.
representing the logo of the manufacturing company and country of
production on items such as eating utensils, such as forks, knives, and
Another application of modern engraving is found in the printing industry. There, every
day thousands of pages are mechanically engraved ontorotogravure cylinders, typically
a steel base with a copper layer of about 0.1 mm in which the image is transferred. After
engraving the image is protected with an approximately 6 µm chrome layer. Using this
process the image will survive for over a million copies in high speed printing presses.