Feel in control Copperplate

Copperplate printing

Copperplate printing also known as engraved printing uses a polished copper plate on which a design has been etched or engraved. The fine handwriting that is associated with 18th and 19th-century copperplate engravings is often referred to as copperplate.

In the 21st century, it’s difficult to find originality in design. How can you create a piece of direct mail, or personalised print that is truly memorable? Ironically, one of the most effective techniques for designers to achieve just that dates from the 16th century. Engraving, sometimes known as ‘copperplate’ or intaglio’ printing will bring some real quality to your print designs.

Copperplate printing also known as engraved printing, uses a polished copper plate on which a design has been etched or engraved. The fine handwriting that is associated with 18th and 19th century copperplate engravings is often referred to as copperplate. Engraving is the “pre-press” part of the process, the engraved plate, or die, is then placed in the die-stamping press.

Today, this script lettering style can either be created and engraved by hand directly onto the metal printing plate or typeset on a computer and then transferred to the printing plate.

There are many styles of script available, providing a speedy and economical way of creating distinctive and beautiful-looking invitations, announcements and business cards.

Etched in the past…

Dating from the 16th century, copperplate printing or engraving still creates an image of elegance and distinction and it allows designers to create very high quality printed materials. The craftsmen at Baddeley Brothers have been practising the art of this type of printing since 1859.

To create a copperplate or engraved print, the image to be reproduced is first engraved onto a copper plate. Nowadays, this is normally achieved through computer typesetting, but hand tooling may still be employed to capture fine detail or rout out larger areas. The plate is then inked and stamped against a sheet of paper at pressures of up to two tons per square inch, causing the image to be transferred to the paper stock.

The extreme force used in the copperplate printing process presses the paper deep into the engraved areas of the printing plate, creating an impression on the paper surface. It is this impression that imparts the finished image with its unique, three-dimensional character and tremendous tactile appeal. In addition, because copperplate printing inks are opaque, they produce crisp, well-defined images in colours that are exceptionally clear and true. Their opacity also allows the engraving of light-coloured images on darker paper stocks.

Top tips when choosing the copperplate technique

Follow these guidelines for best results when designing for copperplate printing…

  • Copperplate printing may be combined with other reprographic processes, within limitations. Usually, the copperplate engraving will be completed last.
  • Plate size is based on the area of the image to be engraved. The maximum area should not exceed 125mm x 210mm.
  • Engraved images can be made with either two or more colours; each will need a separate plate and a separate pass through the printing press.
  • Whether two-point type or hairline imagery, copperplate printing offers reproduction that is absolutely faithful to the original. However, any imperfections in a design will also be transferred. Therefore, the reproduction artwork for engraving must be absolutely clean and sharp.
  • Large solids in engraving should be avoided as they tend to mottle and leave uneven ink coverage. If large colour areas are to be achieved, the use of a screen will ensure uniform ink transfer.