History of Engraving

Engraving is a printmaking process that has been around, in one form or another, for much of human history. Techniques and materials have shifted, but the basic process remains the same: carving grooves into metal, applying ink, and then using the resulting inked plate to transfer the design onto a print. Even today, with high-tech printing options, many individuals and businesses still choose engraving to produce printed communications for any number of special events or important products.

Incredibly, the first evidence for engraving dates back hundreds of thousands of years! What we know now as engraving as a printmaking process traces back to the Middle Ages up through the Renaissance, where masters began making printed impressions of their metal engravings in order to preserve copies of the designs once the actual metal pieces were in the hands of clients. By the mid-1500s, however, the practice of etching became popularized and eventually overtook engraving, since the techniques were easier for craftspeople to learn.

For a print to be considered engraved, it typically must use specific processes and tools. Traditionally, engraving starts with a copper plate (although steel has also been used in more recent years). Grooves are cut into the plate – hand-crafted engravings are done using a steel hand tool called a burin, while others are done by machine – to create a design that will then hold ink. High-quality opaque ink is applied to the carved surface, then carefully wiped so that the ink remains just in the grooves. This printing plate is then used in a printing press, along with the desired paper, to produce a highly detailed, raised print.

Any number of printed products can benefit from the old-world elegance of engraving! There’s an old saying in the engraving world: “If it’s important, then it should be engraved.” Engraving gives a special, high-end feel to any printed product, with its high-quality printing and slightly raised designs.

Classic pieces like invitations or stationery are prime examples of products that benefit from engraving. You can customize beautiful pieces on elegant paper while conveying a feeling of prestige, attention to detail, and timelessness. Invitations and announcements feel even more special with engraving – truly, any kind of high-end or “event” communications can be taken to the next level with engraving.

When it comes to business cards, engraving can truly make a card stand out from the pack (if you’ll excuse the pun!). Even in an increasingly digital world, a beautiful and professional business card can make a great impression at the right time. It’s important that your card convey professionalism and a sense of stability and trust, and engraving has long been a sign of exactly those qualities.

Shirley Engraving has been producing these pieces and much more for the past century, with large firms, corporations, and even U.S. presidents among our beloved clients! Engraving is very much not a thing of the past – by combining the best of old-world craftsmanship with modern-day technology, engraving continues to be a process that produces stunning prints for anyone, anytime.

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