The historical photo-mechanical printing process known as photogravure can produce a highly detailed continuous tone image. This process can now be accomplished using steel backed photo sensitive polymer plates etched in water and printed by hand through the intaglio print processes. Developing a photo image on a steel surface in this way expands the creative options for the artist because of the possibilities within intaglio printmaking.
To print an intaglio plate or a photogravure plate, printing inks are spread, rolled, wiped or dabbed always pushing the ink into the incised lines. When the whole plate is inked the plate is then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the surface ink. The inked plate is placed on the bed of an etch press. Dampened paper usually, 100 cotton, is placed on the plate and several woolen blankets are placed on the paper. The plate, paper and blankets are rolled through the press under high pressure pushing the paper into the inked etch. Plates can be printed in editions, as monoprints/monotypes or editions with variations.
The type of paper, the amount of ink left on the plate, the color or colors of ink, etch press pressure as well as the skill of the printmaker all come into play to determine the outcome of the image.