Photogravure printing

Photogravure printing was invented by Henry Fox Talbot in 1852 and was made popular by Alfred Stieglitz who used it extensively to print his and other photographers work in the 1890s and early 1900s. Cone Editions Press has been printing photogravures since the 1980s. Photogravures are highly sought after by collectors because they are hand-crafted in a laborious process and known for their exceptional fade-resistance and longevity. Additionally, photogravure is one of the only photographic printmaking process that is inked by hand and printed by intaglio method with an etching press.
Photogravure is a unique way to print a photograph because the image that is etched into the metal plate is inked and wiped by hand, requiring great skill, and impressed into dampened paper under great pressure in an intaglio press. The plate creates a strong impression in the paper and it is immediately obvious that the photograph has been printed by an intaglio process.

There are several options which you can choose. You can have us bleed print it to the edge of the image where the image forms the indentation in the sheet. You can have us put a 3/8" plate margin around the image so that that unprinted plate margin begins the impression. You could also have us include your type at the bottom margin in which case we use 1/2" sides, top, and a one inch margin at the bottom where your type is included. This option especially references your chosen photograph to the historical process when images were titled and the printer noted. You can also choose between three different colors of ink: carbon black, sepia black, and our house black.

This is how we print Photogravure

1) The Green Mountain Plate

The Green Mountain Plate

This is a very high quality photopolymer applied to a metal plate with a thickness at 0.95mm. The photopolymer is unusually slow which permits us to work without fear of fogging. It also allows us to use up to ten gradated shades of carbon ink to print our customer's positive images directly to plate .


2) We formulate our own inkjet inks and produce our own software for these customized printers. The ten shades of ink produce tens of thousands of gray levels in the form of tiny dots, too small and. too may for the eye to detect. In combination with the slow exposing polymer these inks produce a continuous-tone image without the need for a halftone or mezzotint screen.



3) The plate is exposed without the need for film nor screen nor glass resulting in a much higher level of acuity because there is zero diffusion during exposure.


4) The plate can be immediately processed with filtered water which washes away the pigment ink positive and the unexposed polymer.


5) The processed plate is first blotted dry and then air dried by inspection.


6) The plate is then final cured with more intense UV.

We are the inventors and builders of the verifiedUV exposure systems that are built around a 365nM high output UV chip that we developed during the COVID-19 shutdown. Our systems are the fastest exposing units on the planet and we do sell them to others.


7)  We do begin mixing our etching inks by eye - but when it comes to proofing and editioning we use a precise scale so that we can repeat our inks.


8) The Green Mountain Plate photopolymer is strong enough to not require a roller for inking.


9)  After inking the plate is carefully hand-wiped and there is a tremendous amount of control and expression possible at this point.


10) The plate margins are easy to wipe clean resulting in crisp white margins when desired.


11) Dampened printmaking paper is carefully aligned to the printing plate.


12)  The studio uses either a Takach press (seen here) or a an even larger Ettan press when needed.


13)  The print is pulled from the plate to reveal the results.


14) Our process is fully calibrated and produces Photogravure prints that match the image as displayed on a screen. 

The have significantly more fidelity than one would expect from a photogravure regardless of the process be it copperplate via aquatint or double exposure method. We compare ourselves to copper plate photogravure because we printed with that process for decades before perfecting this method. We saw that as the bar and we raised it.

Steven Friedman's photogravure of Maple Slot Canyon

 The digital file we used to produce it.