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Photopolymer Gravure

The photopolymer gravure (or photo etching) process is a modern intaglio printmaking process. Its origins lie in the heliogravure and photogravure processes, developed in the nineteenth century by some of the earliest inventors of photography, Nicéphore Niépce and William Henry Fox Talbot.

The process involves placing a photographic transparency over a light-sensitive metal plate, and exposing this to UV light. During processing, areas of the plate that have been blocked by the image on the transparency are etched away, creating hollows in the plate, whereas areas that havereceived exposure through the transparency  remain in relief. 

The plate can then be put through a printmaking press to create etchings. First, the plate is covered in oil-based ink, which is pushed into the etched areas of the plate. It is then polished so that the surface of the plate is clean, but the hollows in the plate continue to hold ink. The plate is then sandwiched with a sheet of damp printmaking paper and put through an etching press; the pressure pushes the damp paper into the hollows of the plate, where it picks up the ink.

The process of making these etchings is time and labour intensive, but the final product, with its fine detail, depth of tone and tactile nature is unlike any other printing process. It is also a very meditative and enriching process for the artist, as all the senses, and the body, become attuned to the image and involved in producing the print.

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Inking & wiping the plate