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Which supports, ink and paper should you use for engraving?

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Artist : Charlotte Reine

As soon as you take up engraving, you will need specific material: metal plates, colours, tarlatan, tools... You will find this material in specialised shops or stores with specialised departments for engraving. Don't hesitate to choose quality products, even if it's your first purchase!

1. Plates

Choose your metal to suit your project. You will find plates of all sizes, with 1mm thickness, in specialised shops or stores with specialised departments for engraving.

  • Copper is very pleasant to work with, and can be recognised by its warm colour. It is the most commonly used metal. It allows subtle finishes for all techniques.
  • Zinc is a softer metal. Biting using acid baths is fast but difficult to control. Beginners often prefer zinc for its lower price but it is not possible to create all shades with it and it is less resilient to successive printing.
  • Steel is very hard and accurate, but difficult to work with. However, it is very resilient when making numerous prints.

2. Inks

These are oil based printing inks, specifically for engraving.

The longest established manufacturer is charbonnel, which was founded in 1862. You can also purchase your material from manufacturer Joop Stoop.

For intaglio printing there is an entire range of blacks and a large choice of colours.
You will also find emulsion inks for intaglio printing that make it possible to avoid using solvents.

3. Tarlatan

This is a stiff fabric that is sometimes referred to as scrim. It is used for wiping the ink on the plate without removing the lines and being careful of the surface work.

“Dabbers” are also made with tarlatan, for colour inking (See tricks of the trade: how-to-ink-and-wipe). You can buy tarlatan by the metre in specialised engraving shops or from fabric suppliers.

4. Paper

There are many varieties of paper. The most popular are 100% cotton rag papers, which are acid free and produced at paper mills. For engraving, the grammage of the paper, which represents its weight per square metre, ranges from 160 grams to 300 grams.
For tests, which are often numerous, it is better to use a fine paper. Light or white in colour, make sure the surface of the latter is not too granular, so that it will absorb the ink well during printing.
The paper must be dampened, preferably the night before, then it must be drained and pressed.
The paper must be dampened, preferably the night before, then it must be drained and pressed. It must be flexible and damp, but with no traces of water. To start off in the art of engraving, you can use Canson® Barbizon. This quality paper is perfectly suitable for all the major fine art techniques (Engraving and Embossing, Crimping, Intaglio, Stencils, Lithography, Screen printing, Typography). When you are more experienced, you can use Canson® Edition. This 100% cotton paper will give you full satisfaction, whatever technique you use!