Touch Me, Feel Me: The Power and History of Engraved Printing

Here’s one of the most important truths about design: Humans notice difference.

You know how an odd smell disappears after a short time? The smell doesn’t go away, but our brains stop noticing because it becomes normalized. Our other senses work the same way: If you see the same shape or color over and over again, soon, you stop paying attention. But as soon as as you experience something different, your brain perks up and pays attention.

And so it is when you pick up a piece of paper that has been printed by engraving.

engraved printing

Engraving — sometimes known as dimensional printing or intaglio — is a method of printing which involves grooves in a metal plate that are filled with ink and then pressed into paper. The result is I in some ways similar to letterpress, but the result is the opposite: instead of type and graphics being pressed into the paper, the ink is raised above the paper.

This creates such an usual tactile impression (no pun intended) that the person holding the paper cannot help but take notice.

However, while many designers know about letterpress, very few know about engraving. So I’m excited about a book I have sitting here, called Design to Touch, which covers the history and process of engraving. Written by Rose Gonnella, Erin Smith, and Christopher Navetta, this book was published by the International Engraved Graphics Association (IEGA), and is available on their web site

Design to Touch

It’s an extraordinary book because it contains not just information about engraving, but also 30 beautiful examples of engraved pages that you can touch and inspect. It also has a ton of inspirational ideas, design exercises, and useful techniques.

You can also watch a cool short video about how Rose and the team made the book’s cover:

If you’re into creating rich, amazing print experiences, you owe it to yourself to take a look at this book… and take a closer look at how you might use engraving in your work.

Posted on: November 25, 2016

David Blatner

David Blatner is the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign, Spectrums: Our Mind-Boggling Universe From Infinitesimal to Infinity, and The Joy of Pi. He is also the author of InDesign Essential Training and the InDesign Insider Training titles at David is the co-host of InDesignSecrets and PePcon: The Print + ePublishing Conference, and is the co-founder of Creative Publishing Network.

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