Photogravure is a term describing a photomechanical process of etching or inscribing an image into a surface. Traditionally that was a polished metal plate (often copper or zinc).
The highly respected arts involving metal etching are rather notoriusly risky. They use a variety of dangerous chemicals, especially the acid baths used to etch the metal.
Photopolymer gravure uses a low toxicity, photosensitive polymer (plastic), usually with a metal backing plate to keep it rigid. This polymer reacts with UV light as well as water. It was originally developed for commercial letterpress use.
After exposing it in a contact frame with a transparent black and white image on top, any polymer that was covered by the image will be washed out in the water development. This leaves the image as a series of microscopic holes in the polymer surface – just as it does with a metal plate.
Fine gradations in the tonal range are achieved by exposing the plate separately to a stochastic screen, as well as exposing it under the image transparency. This acts in a similar way to the aquatint process used in metal etching, producing a series of microscopic holes in the plate for the ink to sit in.
The plate is then inked and run under damp printing papers through a press under high pressure, squeezing the image into the fibres of the paper. This gives it the beautiful, velvety texture that I fell in love with.
These are each unique, original art prints, and there will be a limited number of prints available for each image – this helps to establish and maintain the value of the artworks over time. It takes me about 48 hours to complete a print. This includes digital preparation, exposure, development, drying, curing and printing.
Please get in touch here to enquire about specific prints while I am working on the shop area of this website.
With cyanotypes and polymer photogravure I am happy to discuss commissions, including making original, hand made art prints from your own digital images – I would just need to check the image first to assess suitability in terms of contrast and exposure.
Thanks for looking!