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Photogravure - Its Definition and Processes

written by: Arnold Zafra•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/19/2009

Photogravure has been around the photography world for quite some time now. But have you stopped and thought about what it really is? What is a photogravure and what are the processes involved in creating it? Read on to find out more.

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    Definition of Photogravure

    There are various definitions of Photogravure and we listed down some of them here.

    Wikipedia gave a rather vague definition by saying that "Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process in which photographic images are printed using forms of mechanised etching plates."

    Pieter S. Myers defined "Photogravure as an image making method more permanent and more reproducible than the existing silver-based photographic processes." The photogravure according to Mr. Myers was "printed on ink on rag paper and provided a continuous range of tones greatly improving on letterpress and the existing method of reproducing photographs for publication."

    A rather short and yet straightforward definition was given by the site Fine Art Prints - "Photogravure printing is a method of printing high quality images using photographic and etching techniques."

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    What is Photogravure, Really?

    Given these three definitions from three various sources, we could safely say that Photogravure is a printing method used to produce high quality images using some kind of machine for etching the images on a printing form. That printing form could either be a rag paper or other materials that can absorb ink etching.

    So, do you understand now? Can you now easily spot a photogravure product? If not, why don't we take a look at the processes involved in producing a photogravure?

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    Processes Involved in Making a Photogravure

    Essentially, creating a photogravure entails five steps - preparing the plates and the image, transferring the image to the plate, etching the plate, and printing the photogravure. These processes involves various steps aimed at transferring the image to be etched on the copper plate carefully and perfectly to produce the final photogravure output.

    Briefly these steps entail preparing both the copper plate and the image to be merged with each other by transferring the image onto the copper plate through a complex and highly delicate process of separating the image from the tissues that holds it and then adhering it perfectly into the polished and well cleaned copper plate.

    The last and most important steps in creating photogravure is of course printing the photogravure through an etching process wherein ink is spread over the copper plate to fill the areas representing the image. The plate is then cleaned off excess inks before a piece of dampened, high quality paper is pressed onto it, passing through press. To produce the final photogravure output the plate is thoroughly cleaned again.