The Art of the Photogravure
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Preparing the Plate
Preparing the Image
Transferring the Image to the Plate
Etching the Plate
Printing the Gravure
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The Photogravure Process
Printing the Gravure

The plate is rolled with etching ink

The final wiping of the plate is done by hand

The plate and paper are run through the press

Lifting the print off of the plate

FINALLY, AFTER THE PLATE has been thoroughly washed, the gravure is printed - on an etching press, like all other forms of intaglio printing. Stiff ink is spread over the entire plate and worked into the recessed areas that form the image. Next, the surface of the plate is carefully wiped, leaving ink only in the tiny, hollowed-out pits. The plate is then positioned face-up on an etching press. The artist places a piece of dampened, high-quality paper over the plate then covers the paper with etching felts for padding and passes this through the press. The rollers force the paper into the small depressions that hold the ink, creating a printed image. To make the next impression, the artist re-inks the plate and repeats the process. At the end of the printing session, the plate is thoroughly cleaned.

This procedure produces "grain" gravures, so called because of the random dots created by the dusted rosin. Photogravure is a time-consuming, labor-intensive, costly process used today only by fine-art photographer-printmakers. Commercial printers, however, presently use two allied forms of photogravure for high-quality reproductions. The first is "screen" (or sheet-fed) gravure, in which a regular grid pattern (instead of random grains) is superimposed on the plate. The second is the rotogravure process, which features cylindrical screen-gravure plates printed at high speed. Rotogravure printing is economical only for very large press runs; its high-quality images (in both black-and-white and color) are commonly seen in Sunday newspaper pictures magazines.

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