THE BEAUTY OF CUSTOM ENGRAVED STATIONERY
Long synonymous with fine stationery this traditional printing technique delivers rich opaque colours combined with a printed image that is raised from the surface of the page. It first requires the ‘engraving’ or etching of the image onto a thin copperplate before paper is forced into the inked recesses of the plate and the embossed printed image is transferred to the page. The three dimensional character gives engraved stationery its tremendous tactile appeal whilst the rich colours and burnished metallic shades give it huge visual appeal.
HOW DOES PERSONALIZED ENGRAVED STATIONERY DIFFER FROM OTHER PRINT PROCESSES?
Traditional printing techniques involving the transfer of wet ink from a duct to the printed page all require some form of printing plate to be created which carries the text or image that is to be printed. In this respect, engraved stationery is no different to other traditional printing processes in that it too requires a plate which it its case takes the form of a mild steel die or a copperplate which has to be ‘engraved’ with the information that is to be printed. This engraving process was traditionally carried out by hand by a skilled engraver who would ‘grave’ the design into the soft metal using a ‘graving’ tool. This master craftsman was effectively scratching the design into the surface of the metal in the same way as scribes in ancient civilisations might have scratched symbols into a clay tablet. Sadly there are few such craftsmen alive in the UK today who still carry out this highly skilled operation which has been replaced to a greater extent by acid etching. In this process the design, often computer set text, is etched onto the plate by immersion in an acid bath. Some hand tooling is often still required on etched plates to capture fine details or rout out larger areas but the skills required for this are less than those of the hand engraver who would be engraving lettering in reverse, called wrong-reading, to create a plate that is something akin to a photographic negative since when the inked plate is pressed against the chosen stock it delivers a right-reading or ‘positive’ print.
WHY IS IT CALLED ENGRAVING?
Once the plate has been engraved its surface is inked and then wiped clean, leaving just the scratched depressions in the plate, the engravings, filled with ink. It is then fitted to a diestamping press and a template or ‘force’ that mimics the engravings in the die is then hand cut by the die stamper. Pressure is applied by the press which forces the paper or card, which has been placed between the female recesses of the die/plate and male protrusions of the force, into the inked recesses of the plate and by so doing the image is now transferred onto the surface of the paper and at the same time raised above the surrounding area. The printed image has in fact been ‘embossed’ by a process that is also often known as diestamping or is alternatively know as copperplate printing, dependent upon whether a steel die or copperplate has been used, although these terms are often used interchangeably. When the design is embossed without any ink having been used the process is known as ‘blind embossing’. Interestingly it is the skill of the engraver and not that of the printer which has become synonymous with the process, since the product it produces in generally known as engraved stationery.
WHAT SETS ENGRAVED WRITING PAPER APART FROM THERMOGRAPHY?
With the lettering or design now perceptibly raised from the surface of the writing sheet or card and evident to both the eye and to the touch, the area behind the image shows signs of bruising and will clearly show an indentation in those areas that were forced into the inked recesses of the die or copperplate. This is the tell-tale indication that a product has been diestamped and indicates to the discerning viewer that they are looking a piece of fine stationery and not something printed using the heat raising process known as thermography. As well as the finer results achieved by engraving, the inks are nowadays mainly water-based which means that they deliver an opaque matt finish whereas the resins and powder using in thermography usually deliver a mid-sheen or glossier finish. Metallic inks, more commonly used for engraved invitations and embossed wedding invitations, require a second pass through the press, once to apply the ink and a second pass that polishes it to bring up its lustre, but the net result is a true metallic that in our view has no equal.