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Photoengraving also known as photo-chemical milling is a process of engraving using photographic processing techniques. The full form of photoengraving is photo mechanical process in the graphic arts, used principally for reproducing illustrations. The subject is photographed, and the image is recorded on a sensitized metal plate, which is then etched in an acid bath. In the case of line cuts (drawings in solid blacks and whites without gradations of color), the photoengraving is done on zinc, and the result is called a zinc etching. In the case of halftone cuts, the work is done on copper. The halftone effect is accomplished by photographing the subject through a wire or glass screen, which breaks the light rays so that the metal plate is sensitized in a dotted pattern; the larger dots create the darker areas, the smaller dots the highlights. The finer the screen, the greater the precision of detail in the printed product. Halftones made with a screen having 65 lines to the inch are considered coarse. Those having 150 lines to the inch are considered fine. [[File:DianaLouvre.jpg|thumb|right|An 1899 photoengraving of the original marble statue, Diana of Versailles at the Louvre]] The most common type of photoengraving involves using a material that is photosensitive and resistant to acids or other etching compounds. This material, called a photoresist, is applied to a metal to be engraved. It is then exposed to light (usually strong ultraviolet) through a photographic negative causing it to harden where the negative allows light to pass. The photoresist is then developed by washing in a solvent that removes the unhardened parts. Finally, the metal to be engraved is exposed to an acid or other etching compound which dissolves the exposed parts of the metal.

Photoengraving is used to make printed circuit boards, printing plates, foil-stamping dies and embossing dies. It is also used to make nameplates, commemorative plaques and other decorative engravings. A similar process called photolithography is used to make integrated circuits.


One method of photoengraving produces a shallow depression in the metal. This is used for intaglio printing plates or for decorative purposes. It is also the same method used for printed circuit boards. The engraving is usually made in copper or brass. The process can be done in open trays but is much more effective if the etchant (often ferric chloride) is sprayed onto the metal. When ferric chloride is used as the etchant, no metal parts other than titanium can be used in the etching equipment. Decorative engraving is often filled by spray-painting then sanding to remove the paint from the raised parts of the engraving. [[File:Emma Calvé 02.jpg|thumb|right|A photoengraved poster for the French opera singer Emma Calvé, 1902]] Another method produces a deep engraving with sloped shoulders. In this method the metal (usually zinc or magnesium) is held face-down and a mixture of nitric acid and a soap-like oil is splashed onto it. As the acid etches the surface the oil adheres to the edges of the exposed area. This progressively reduces the area being etched resulting in a sloped edge; a single dot will end up as a cone-shaped mound protruding from the etched area. This method is used for printing plates (the shoulder supports the printing surface), foil stamping dyes and embossing dyes. Decorative engravings made by this method may go through a second process to produce a decorative background. The raised parts and their shoulders are painted with an etchant-resistive material and a pattern of etchant-resistive material is applied to the deep parts of the engraving. The resist for the background may be another photoengraving or may be randomly splashed-on. The engraving is etched again for a short time to produce a raised pattern in the background. Decorative engravings of this type may also be spray-painted and sanded as in the previous method.


In 1852, William Fox Talbot patented some of his pioneering work for a prototype of photoengraving. During the 1880s photoengraving techniques had developed further and by the end of the century the process had dramatically improved the look of newspapers and enhanced advertisements with better graphics.

John C. Moss (January 5, 1838—April 8, 1892) invented the first practicable photo-engraving process in 1863. It led to a revolution in printing and eventually to the mass marketing of newspapers and magazines and books which combined photographs with traditional text.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Photoengraving" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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