Up until the early years of the 19th century printing methods had not noticeably changed for some time. Papermaking originated in China but it is such an ancient art that the exact years of its origin are unknown. Prior to the introduction of paper, text and images for books were rendered by hand on animal parchment. Paper in the 19th century tended to be made from cotton, hemp, and flax, which were usually obtained from cloth rags, hence the term rag paper.
Generally most postcards were made from the poorer chemical pulp (wood cellulose), giving them both hardness and limited durability. Paper Webs: This postcard from 1906 depicts printing paper being rolled into webs at a mill in Maine.
ModificationsThe so called Laid papers we use today are a far distant cousin from earlier relations. The remaining absorbency issue was solved by adding a nonabsorbent coating such as starch, casein or glue to the paper’s surface. TextureWhile the purpose of cold and hot press processing of paper was to generally reduce the rough surface that formed while it dried on a screen, the heavy rollers that were employed were sometimes used to emboss a specific texture directly into the paper.
Embossed Paper: The dirt on this detail from a postcard made in 1905 helps bring out the wormy pattern embossed into this paper.
The inks used in the printing trades have been carefully adapted to each printing medium resulting in a wide variety of product; those used in lithography are the consistency of tar, and those used in screen printing are similar to house paint. In 1925 six major German companies merged into a cartel, IG Farben (Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG) to become the world’s largest manufacturer of chemicals including inks and dyes.
While colorants played a major role in postcard production not all of them were in the form of ink. The basic design of the printing press had remained the same for centuries, but when change finally came it continued to evolve at an ever increasing rate.
Screw and hand PressesThe first presses designed for typographical printing were similar to those used for pressing grapes for wine.
Screw Hand Press:This postcard reproduces an old woodcut from 1522 displaying a Badius hand operated screw press in action. Bed and Platen PressTwo types of presses have dominated the printing trades since the early 19th century. Bed and Platen Press: This English made Minerva from about 1880 is a typical design for a small jobbing platen.
All methods of relief printing are characterized as being made from a printing substrate whose flat top surface carries the image when rolled with ink while all non printing areas (the color of the paper) are cut away so that they fall below the surface plane (dead level). Printing from cut blocks or planks of wood is the oldest printing technique known to man dating back to at the least third century in China.
Woodcut: This old illustration from an 18th century broadsheet shows the traditional way that wood was cut to represent drawn or copper engraved lines. In woodblock printing an image was usually first drawn or painted onto a plank and then the areas not meant to print were cut away with knives, chisels, scrives, and gouges. Woodcut: Even at full size this reproduction of a woodcut made in 1918 easily displays the marks left behind from the tools used to create it. Since the images from wooden blocks are cut with a knife or a gouge they often leave tell tail marks that would not appear in any other medium.
Color Woodcut: In this detail from a color woodblock the angular quality of the tree branches displays the typical signs of being cut out with a knife. Wood Cutting Tools: A variety of knives and gouges used to cut woodblocks are shown in the picture above. Ink Squash: This detail from the back of a postcard shows that it was more likely printed from a line block relief than by lithography due to the ink squash around the edges.
Wood Grain: This block of wood was scoured with a wire brush that removed softer areas of wood at a faster rate than hard areas. In relief printing it is the top surface of the substrate that gets inked and all areas cut away will be non printing, at least in theory. Reduction PrintingThe reductive nature of woodblock printing provided for a technologically easy method of creating multiple color prints but one that required more careful planning. While many colors can be printed this way, most prints that used this technique only utilized two to four hues including black. Reduction Woodblock: It is often difficult to tell if a woodcut was printed with multiple blocks or through a reduction method. Japanese WoodblockBy the 1740’s new color inks were being manufactured in Japan and many printers began adding green and pink to their woodblocks.
By the late 19th century most prints in Japan were being produced in elaborate colors (Ukioye) through the use of multiple blocks that would each print an individual color. Color Woodblock: This postcard displays the flat color fields that are typical of Japanese prints and easily achievable through block printing. Unlike woodblock printing in the West where colors were printed in uniform flat fields, the Japanese showed themselves to be far less reluctant to manipulate the application of ink onto blocks. Color Woodblock: This postcard displays the tonal transitions common in Japanese prints that could be created through inking the blocks by hand. The art of papermaking originated in China but evolved differently as the process migrated to the West and Japan. Color Woodblock: This Japanese woodblock has been printed on a thin rice paper and mounted onto thicker paper stock.
While color woodblock printing came to the West in the 19th century it could not compete commercially with the printing methods already in use. Color Woodblock: While this more modern woodblock postcard shows some Western influence in its use of pictorial space and the looseness of its drawing, it still displays all the typical stylistic cutting of the traditional Japanese technique.
Compound PrintIn compound printing the individual shapes to print different colors within the same design are separated by sawing completely through a single substrate.
Compound Style While we can tell the line block postcard above was made from two separate plates due to ink overlap, it is designed in a style based on traditional compound woodcutting. White Line Block PrintingWhile similar to a compound print white line block printing is a uniquely American form developed by a group of artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1915.
White Line Woodblock: This image of Provincetown is typical of white line block printing except that the chosen pallet is more muted than usual.
Thomas Bewick took up the graver in the late 18th century during the general decline of woodcut printing.
Wood Engraving Tools: The two tools at the bottom in the picture above are gravers for use on wood.
In wood engraving it is the polished end grains of carefully seasoned boxwood that are incised to create an image. Wood Engraving: In this detail a variety of engraved marks are used to create optical tone. White Line and Black Line StyleMost woodblocks had been cut in a linear fashion in an attempt to imitate the look of the more prestigious metal engraved line and this tradition was initially passed down to the art of wood engraving.
White Line Wood Engraving: Where previously wood was cut away to reveal black lines, Thomas Bewick would gouge out white lines from a black field in ways that more naturally showed off the medium itself. The relief process known as Letterpress was the primary method used to print text throughout the 19th century and halfway through the 20th. Wood Engraving Tools: This modern lithographic postcard issued by the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz illustrates Johannes Gutenberg printing a bible with his screw press in 1445. Used extensively to print newspapers and books, the role of letterpress in postcard production as a typographical medium was basically limited to advertising cards and for the printing of sharp clear text. Letterpress: The majority of early cards were used for advertising, and they usually combined a wood engraved illustration with printed text.
Rotogravure and Letterpress: Even though gravure is known for its high quality the detail above shows the ambiguity of its structure when enlarged.
Chromolithograph: The generic image on this unusual stock card from 1912 was printed in chromolithography while the title was added through letterpress. XylographyWhen wood engravings are used in conjunction with letterpress printing to match text with image it is referred to as xylography. Wood Engraving Joints: This detail displays the joints typically found on large wood engravings, which are visible due to the crumbling of the block edges. Wood Engraving: It would take a long time for white line cutting to gain popularity and the larger audience in commercial printing remained with work that simulated the line work traditionally found engraved on copper. Wood Engraving: At first glance the mottled surface on parts of this old trade card make it look similar to a line block print. Wood Engraving In this illustration an engraver is cutting into a small block of wood while observing his handiwork through a magnifier. Multi Plate PrintingIn an earlier time when almost all printing was done in black & white the addition of just one single color could attract much added attention. Color Woodblock: Only two woodblocks were used to produce this postcard with its unusual pallet.
The more common way to print two colors was through the introduction of a second substrate. ChromoxylographyIn this early method of color printing ten to twenty wood engraved blocks would be employed to each hold a separate color, and when printed together they would yield a single color image. Chromoxylograph: This rare chromoxylographic postcard used the technique to create an association with folk art.
Chromotypograph: Postcards were generally not made as chromoxylographs with the possible exception of a few pioneers, but the style was imitated in other mediums. Lithograph: This early color lithographic postcard from 1896 does not follow the styling that would be normally used to create a chromolithograph.
Chromoxylograph: Artists also used multiple wood engraved blocks to create color prints but the choice of pallet was based more on individual discretion than industry standards. GlyphographyAn unusual relief printing method was invented by the Englishman, Edward Palmer in 1842 to imitate wood engravings though the use of metal plates.
Paniconography This unusual technique patented by Firmin Gillot in 1850 as paniconography is actually a hybrid of lithography, intaglio and relief printing.
Various materials had been used for stamping since ancient times but it was not until Charles Goodyear discovered a way to stabilize rubber in 1844 that rubber stamping became possible. Stock Card: This stock postcard was printed in lithography but the name, Bergen Beach was added with a rubber stamp by the business owner who ordered them.
Rubber stamping was also often used on stock cards when a hand press was not available to add a place name or greeting.
Rubber Stamping: The postcard above was made through a combination of letterpress, hole punching, and rubber stamping, all associated with Mail Art. Intaglio is a low relief process in which a sheet of metal is incised with the aid of hand tools or with acid, and the depressions filled with a stiff ink into which paper is pressed by means of a high pressure roller.
It must be noted that while there are a wide variety of intaglio methods that a printing plate can be made from, they are not exclusive of each other.
Rolling PressThe rolling press was used for the manufacturing of sheet metal and the calendaring of fabric before it was adopted for printing in the 16th century. Rolling Press: This illustration of a early hand press with a bed sandwiched between two heavy rollers was designed to print intaglio plates. The earliest form of intaglio is engraving, long used to decorate metal before ever applied to a printing plate.
Engraving plates are printed in a traditional intaglio manner by covering the entire substrate with a stiff ink and then wiping the top surface clean.
Metal Engraving Tools: The top three gravers pictured above are angled differently to more easily move in a particular manner across the plate.
Line Engraving: Both of these details illustrate the evenly tapered carefully incised lines so characteristic of the French style of engraving.
Stipple EngravingStipple engraving became popular in the mid-18th century as one of the ways to reproduce the effect of crayon drawings on rough paper. Stipple Engraving: Though the postcard above mainly consists of line engraving it also employs a fair amount of stipple engraving, especially to render the more subtle highlights in the face and create smooth gradations in tone as seen in the detail below. Stipple Engraving: This detail shows how stippling can also be used to create flat even tones, in this case to fill in the broad spaces between heavier line engraving. CopperplateAlthough engraving was considered the highest form of 19th century illustration it was not compatible with letterpress that dominated the printing trades.
Steel EngravingIron had been used for etching and engraving since its inception, but its hardness and susceptibility to corrosion kept it out of general use in favor of copper. Steel Engraving: Most steel engravings have a uniform look do to the slow meticulous way that this hard metal was cut into. In 1806 Perkins elaborated on this technology to create multiple yet perfectly identical engraved printing plates. Steel FacingEven though steel plates could be softened they still proved to be very difficult to engrave when compared to copper and artists were reluctant to use them.
Electric EngravingA tremendous amount of commercial prints and book illustrations were created through steel engraving but it was not used in the production of postcards until the 20th century and even then its use was very limited.
Electric Engraving: This postcard made with an electrical engraving tool has a jittery look to it.
Etching is an intaglio printing process by which a sheet of metal is incised through chemical means.
Etching: Unlike engraving, etched lines show a freedom of the hand end can more easily to express the individuality of the artist.
After the ground has been washed off, the incised etching plate can be printed in a traditional intaglio manner by inking the entire plate and then wiping its surface clean. While delicate tones can be created though the careful and laborious manipulation of crosshatched lines, etching largely remains a linear technique. AquatintThe intaglio process called aquatint was in use since the 17th century in order to get around the limitations of having to manipulate line to create tonal images.
An aquatint with a very coarse grain could be achieved by employing a spirit-ground instead of rosin dust.
Mezzotint (Manièrre Norie)In the technique of drypoint a metal plate is drawn upon with a stylus using enough downward pressure so that it pushes up a bur along one edge of the line.
And for those bath time messes, Temp2O™  Technology is there to make things easier too. This was so much fun and I was so happy with the result I am itching to make more stamps now!
I was recently asked to be an eHow contributor, and I am so happy and excited to share my first project with them on their website.
It’s a completely customizable project, which I love, and it can be made with whatever shape, size, type of stump you can use, or gather up!
If you require further details regarding the transaction data, please contact the supplier directly. There had been constant minor improvements in technique and mechanics but the basics had remained the same long enough to establish set patterns and traditions. Agents of the Byzantine Empire imported paper from the Arabs who had been making it since the 8th century. This was a costly endeavor as the making of a large Bible could require the slaughter of as many as 300 sheep.
The invention of the horizontal loom and spinning wheel had made the production of linen clothing cheap and plentiful, which in turn insured a continuous supply of rags for the manufacture of paper. The amount a card has yellowed over time is usually in relation to the quality of the paper used.
The watermarked lines they now contain are placed there for decorative purposes and are unrepresentative of the highly uneven surface that resulted from laying paper on a linear wire mesh during production.
While the adding of a water soluble sizing became common practice, more durable coatings such as China clay (kaolinite), once used in the manufacture of porcelain became widely adapted for printing papers. The patterns on these special rollers could be incised right into them by photo-mechanically transferring an image and then rotating them in an acid bath.
The edges of the embossment are actually more sharply defined than what can be seen here, and under magnification it is impossible to confuse it with the natural fibers of paper that has not been pressed.
In the 19th century it was the new scientific field of organic chemistry that brought real changes to ink. Prior to World War One these companies already practically had a German monopoly giving them control 88% of all colorants.
In the detail below we can see the unevenness of tone and surface texture as well as rough outlines in the paint as a result of being applied by a brush.
The impetus to generate new technology was not driven by new discoveries but by the growing demand for printed material in a world where literacy rates were suddenly climbing. A pressing board suspended on vertical runners was attached to the bottom of a large screw. One was the Bed and Platen press where paper is laid over an inked form on a flat bed and pressure is applied by means of a heavy metal plate that squeezes them all together.
It is one of the few techniques where prints can be pulled either from the pressure supplied by a press or solely from burnishing by hand. A stiff ink is then applied to the surface of this substrate by hand with the aid of a rag, tampon, or dauber. This aspect of woodcutting that was once considered a flaw in workmanship later became a stylistic element in modern prints. Lines that taper, hard straight edges and sharp angles can all be signs that a print was produced by the act of cutting. In relief printing the non-printing areas are cut away below the surface and the surface is then rolled with ink.
All gradations must be created optically through the careful spacing of areas cut to print and those not to print. The ink that is pressed upon by the printing press migrates outward and gathers where the surface plane drops off, which is also the maximum point of pressure on the substrate as it is in a hand rubbing.
This created a very low relief but one high enough for rolled ink to bring out the wood’s natural grain.
Broad areas within the dead level usually contain a wide variety of valleys and ridges that are left behind from the actions of cutting tools. The areas to retain white (usually the paper color) are cut out first, and then the entire surface plane of the remaining substrate is inked with a light color and printed. This method rarely employed color to create a realistic looking image; very often the pallet chosen was similar in hue to create elaborate tonal images that were sometimes referred to as chiaroscuro woodcuts.
Sometimes one layer of ink will seep through the inadvertent nicks in the next to give a clue.
While the style is more linear than what was in vogue at the time it was printed it still demonstrates how certain traditions remained constant over time.
This process starts with a full sized drawing that is pasted face down on what will be the key block containing most of the image. The most common method was in the creation of vignettes where a single block was inked in a manner that would produce a gradation of tones in one hue.
The four distinct compositional elements have enough empty space around them to receive the three colored inks on a singe block. The Japanese did not view their handmade papers (washi) as manufactured goods as much as a product of cultivation. In this way each individual piece can be inked in its own color with greater speed and accuracy, and then reassembled to print an entire color image in one press run. The modern postcard below reproduces a compound woodcut made in 1898 by Edvard Munch, of which many variations exist in different colors.
It involved gouging out a wide line around the simple shapes of the image drawn on the wooden block. While he made no technological innovations his ability to produce high quality images with this medium slowly attracted an audience that would lead to a revival in block printing. The width and depth of an engraved line is totally dependent on the relationship between the V shape of the burin tip that cuts it and the amount of pressure that is applied by hand as seen in the illustration below. Other types of hardwoods such as cherry are sometimes employed but its surface is more susceptible to crumbling. Traditionally text had been printed by cutting whole lines into a single block of wood until it evolved into a method where individual letters (type) were carved and latter cast in metal. Linotype began replacing set type in 1892 and was extensively used to print the backside of postcards but it was also employed to overprint text,, such as titles directly onto a card’s image. It was not unusual for small retailers to buy such cards and add on their own lettering with a small hand press.
Unlike wooden planks that were cut with the grain of the wood and could stretch and crack under the pressure of a press, wood engravings were hard and durable.
Another visual disruption comes from the lines moving across the image that do not match up at the joints. In order to get illustrations into newspapers in a more timely manner, a system was developed in the 1840’s that largely took production out from the hands of artists and gave it to a team of craftsmen. The central objects of attention in wood engraving were usually cut first and the background tones and details were added afterwards.
If the surface of the woodblock is dented or abraded in any way, this will show up as white markings within the blacks similar to the random texture often added onto line block plates. It was occasionally used on earliest advertising postcards where an illustration would enhance the text.
In letterpress an individual letter, block of text, and even image was sometimes inked a different hue from the body of the work, and then fit into an already inked chase.
Color is not used to create a more realistic image, but to attract attention through stylization. Areas that required color would be left blank on the substrate that holds the black portion of the image, and then the same paper would be placed over another substrate that held only areas inked to print in color. The final results were often outstanding and it became a major competitor to chromolithography. This early Will Call card from 1903 has a simple design but it took four separate line block plates inked with RGB colors plus black to print.


Its use of linear marks drawn with a simple red, yellow, and blue pallet is much closer in spirit to a chromoxylograph. It was based on the metalcut designs and fancy letters traditionally produced by metal cutters for printing.
Cured with sulphur and heat this vulcanized rubber began being used for hand stamps in the 1860’s.
Some photographers also used rubber stamping in order to place their names on real photo postcards while avoiding the added cost of commercial printing to their already high end items.
This method produces a high density of printed ink that lays in relief on top the paper’s surface, creating a dark rich picture. It proved perfect for intaglio printing, which required a great deal of pressure to force the paper into the lines of an incised plate.
While commercial printing would move to steam powered then electric rotary presses, this 400 year old design continues to be used for hand printing.
Engravings tend to be very durable due to the crisp sharp edges of the lines and their depth, making them suitable for large press runs. In the detail below we can see that lines can be created in a number of different ways and even print as solid blacks. A stipple engraving burin, designed for use with downward pressure rather than across and up would be used to create small dots in a plate’s surface.
Even if raised to the same height as type its manner of inking was so different to render any consideration pointless.
In 1797 Jacob Perkins patented a method of softening steel for engraving upon it with hardened steel tools, and then casehardening the plate afterwards for printing. In this detail however we can also see some of the great variety of ways that lines so characteristic of this process were cut. A soft steel roller was pressed against a hardened steel engraving under great pressure until it was forced into all of the lines. A way around this was discovered in 1857 when copper engraving plates began to be electroplated with iron. Most of the images created though this method often differed radically from their 19th century cousins as they tended to be drawn with special electric powered vibrating needles. The detail below from a similar card clearly shows the uniform quality of line and the irregular edges created with this tool. First the substrate (plate) is coated with an acid resistant varnish (ground) and once dry it can be drawn upon with a sharp metal scribe that does not disturb the metal underneath but only removes the resist from its surface. All needles basically perform in the same way and differences are designed for personal preference in weight, grip, and cost. Since ink tends to be wiped out of any wide areas of relief on a plate, tone was most often created through a technique know as cross hatching. Etched lines tend not to be as deep as those found in engraving so more care is taken to wipe a plate’s surface clean after inking.
The ability to produce large tonal areas with soft transitions more efficiently had both aesthetic and practical value, and a number of methods were developed to create it. Here a metal substrate is dusted with a fine powder of rosin or asphaltum that is then adhered to its surface by applying heat.
There is a strong painterly sense due to the stop out varnish that was applied to the plate with a brush between the biting of different values of tone. In this method the rosin or asphaltum powder is dissolved in alcohol and this solution is then painted over a metal plate. Both the incised line and the edge under the bur will hold ink, and when inked and wiped for printing the ink from under the bur spills out creating a soft fuzzy looking line.
You send me e-mails asking for my best cleaning tips, or how I keep everything so orderly and tidy all the time. From baking with the ones we love, to painting our walls or a piece of furniture, so many of the messes we make are happy ones. A digital temperature display featuring LED color indicators signal different water temperature ranges. If you are not super confident about drawing a wood grain free-hand you can trace one from a picture. Cut along either side of the pen line you have drawn keeping the knife at a very slight angle to you are cutting under the line.
If you used black ink and white paper it could look like zebra stripes, or if you used blue ink it could look like water.
One might even say she is obsessed with making things, talking about making things and talking to other people about the things they make. I also think they would look amazing in a grouping with different sizes and heights of stumps.
Letterpress had become the predominant method used for most commercial printing while intaglio was often employed for more limited higher end items. Its manufacture arrived in Europe through Muslim Spain where it was used to fuel their great libraries. It took machines such as the Holander beater that could break down rags into large quantities of pulp, and James Whatman’s invention of a fine screen that produced the first smooth finished Wove paper before large scale printing became possible.
Wood was sometimes milled into pulp as a cheep alternative to the more costly rag but it produced a weak paper. Several layers of paper would be pressed together to create card stock, then coated with China clay to help brighten the image and prevent ink absorption. It was from the wire mesh techniques used to make cloth from silver and gold that a tighter and more even screen for papermaking arose.
It created a bright glossy surface that produced richer colors and darker blacks by subduing light scattering and by masking the properties of natural paper fiber. Most of the patterns produced are so delicate their details cannot be discerned by the naked eye, which creates the impression if a natural rough surface. Many new synthetic colors were developed that were a boon to the printing trades and no doubt fueled both the interest and ability to create chromolithographs. Few nations took notice and just imported their inks from Germany until the outbreak of hostilities brought about embargoes and blockades.
This was usually done through watercolor, which soaks into the paper leaving ill defined edges behind. Few books and newspapers had been needed when most people could not read, but as literacy became more commonplace the printing industry barely found it possible to keep up with demand.
As the stationary nut that surrounded the screw was turned it forced it and the pressing board downwards until it squeezed what lay between it and the press bed. Though based on the principals of the screw press these more efficient machines had no screw, their mechanisms opened and closed through the use of weights, counterweights, and springs. Wooden planks were the traditional material used for the relief substrate, but cast metal would eventually become predominant for use in commercial printing.
This method spread throughout Asia where it remained a common and popular method of printing well into the 20th century.
After 1820 rollers began being used for inking either by hand or directly adapted to a printing press. This is not to say that flowing lines cannot be found for a true craftsman can be quite adept.
The shape of the cut areas and their edges will vary depending on the type of tool used to cut it. Because the inking methods are so variable the printed areas may appear densely solid, which is the ideal, or mottled.
While they all fall below the printing plane it is still possible for the high peaks to pick up some ink and for it to inadvertently transfer onto the finished print, especially when inking and printing is done by hand.
The same substrate would then be cut into again removing all areas needed to retain the light colored ink, and then its surface is covered with a darker ink, which is printed over the lighter printed image. This method was much too time consuming to be used for most commercial printing but images made to simulate the technique were easily printed in lithography and line block and found their way onto postcards.
If an image can be logically deconstructed in a reductive manner it is probably a reduction print.
Once the back of the thin paper was slowly peeled away the drawing would be reveled on its surface and cutting could begin to relief the image. Sometimes a single block would be inked in two blending colors or a single block was printed twice but each time inked differently. Papermaking had been the traditional winter occupation of farmers but by the 1870’s increased demand had forced much of its production to become mechanized in industrial settings. This tradition however was so strong in Japan that it continued to be used to create postcards in significant number up to the Second World War alongside more modern techniques. This process imposed strict limitations on the design of the image as no colors could overlap and color areas had to be shaped in a way that made it possible for them to be cut into pieces.
This is similar to the idea of a black key plate that traditionally holds the composition together in other color media, only here it is in white. More importantly these blocks unlike their intaglio rivals could be cut to the same uniform height as that of type so that they could be used in conjunction with letterpress in the same frame. At the top with a strong wide cutting edge is a tinting graver capable of producing six parallel lines at a time.
Interest in the work of Thomas Bewick arose not so much for any technical innovations he discovered but for the new way in which he approached the medium. These small pieces of type could be locked together into frames to print entire pages at a time and then filed away for reuse. While softer toned mediums might produce a superior picture they were not very successful in rendering the precise sharp details required by lettering to be clearly legible. No other process could capture the minute facets and gestures that gives this typeface its readability and character, especially at this small size. Even with the dramatic ink squash its sharp edges make it much more readable and this is why it was often employed to print text on postcards regardless of the medium used to create the image. They could easily be sized to the same height of type and then locked into the same frame to be printed together. Since engraving blocks are cuts of end grain wood, not planks, they are only available in very small pieces.
This leads to a halo effect where linear tonalities do not meet up to outlining as seen in the detail below.
Despite this confusing issue, the detail below seems to indicate that this image was cut away rather than drawn in. By the 1890’s it was completely replaced by line block, which was much cheaper to print. Various sized gravers are handily laid out on one side besides him, and on the other are more blocks ready to be cut. This of course slowed production down tremendously and this method could not be employed when printing a large volume of work. It was chromolithography that became the industry standard in the fight for color printing supremacy, except in England where chromoxylography remained popular. When dry an artist could make his drawing through it just like a ground on an etching plate. After a lithographic print is pulled from a stone it is pressed against a metal plate so that its wet ink will be transferred to it. A drawing of the desired image is placed on a metal plate in the form of an acid resist, which is then etched down into a relief with acid. The selling of real photo postcards were often tied to current events and the immediacy of hand stamping also allowed photographers to market these cards in a timely manner. It is made from a piece of yellow poster board hand cut to an unusual size and then hand stamped by the artist and the Postal Service. Images in intaglio are created either with narrow lines or small marks for if the incised areas are too broad the plate will be unable to hold ink.
To save time, many commercial printers started their plates off in drypoint or etching, and only used the time consuming process of engraving to finish the print off. The plate and paper would be placed on a flat press bed and covered with felt blankets for cushioning, which was then all squeezed between two heavy rollers. This tool cuts and pushes metal out of the substrate leaving behind smooth edged lines with usually at least one tapered end.
The process of engraving however is very time consuming and it is also a highly skilled craft that generally made it too expensive to use in the production of ordinary postcards though they can be found.
The width and depth of an engraved line is totally dependent on the relationship between the diamond shape of the burin tip that cuts it and the amount of pressure that is applied by hand as seen in the illustration below. While this gave it a more artificial look, its consistency made it a favorite among commercial printers. There was a tendency for the metal to be torn and ink to gather around these burs as in drypoint creating an even softer looking print.
If engravings were desired in book form they needed to be printed separately then sewn or tipped in during binding.
Because of its durability steel engraving became a competitive printing medium until the method of electroplating copper with steel was invented.
After the roller was hardened it would pass over a new soft steel or copper plate and press its ridges into it. Engravers could continue to work on the metal of their choice while the iron coating would greatly improve the plates life on the press.
These needles required far less skill to use than the traditional engraving burin and they made it easier to incise the hard steel substrate. When the plate is placed into a bath of acid, the metal devolves where the resist was removed creating an incised line. In the illustration below we can see how the lines drawn by these tools are eaten out from a metal plate. Sets of parallel lines were drawn against each other at different angles, each set adding a darker level of optical tone. Attempts to recreate the appearance of washes were largely fueled by efforts to commercially reproduce paintings. The tiny melted particles create an irregular pattern of exposed plate surface that can now be incised with acid while they in turn act as a resist. In the detail below we are presented with a rough aquatint surface where many of the rosin crystals have fused together under heat creating wildly shaped white patterns.
As the alcohol evaporates the small amounts of resin left behind cannot cover the entire surface and this thin film will reticulate into a random pattern. Ludwig von Siegen coupled this concept with stipple engraving to create a process in which an entire metal substrate is covered with small jagged dot-like impressions that will create rich blacks and subtle tonalities when printed. When hands are messy or full, Delta Touch2O ®  Technology allows us to activate the flow of water with a simple tap anywhere on the faucet spout, hub or handle, helping reduce the spread of dirt and messes from hands to the faucet. It gives the convenience and peace of mind knowing the temperature of the water flowing from the shower or bathtub is just right before getting in. And if you do share your #HappiMess, you’ll be entered for the chance to win a Delta kitchen and bath prize package valued at more than $2,400! When you’re out there making, creating, doing and playing, embrace your #HappiMess and let Delta kitchen and bath innovations help clean up so you can do it all again tomorrow. With such fine detail I was not able to cut very deep into the rubber because I didn’t want to risk cutting away sections I wanted to keep. If you don’t have a roller you can just use your hand but try to make it as even as possible.
I am going to print black onto orange and use it to embellish a scrapbooking layout from when I played with baby tigers in Thailand.
The posts I share encourage readers to take risks and try new things, like camping, rock climbing, and yoga, while maintaining their current interests and responsibilities. The versatile art of lithography, discovered just a few years earlier was soon to be perfected, and it would open up a whole new range of reproductive possibilities. The process of making paper begins with pulp consisting of organic fibers suspended in water that are poured over a flat screen and left to dry. Traditionally made by hand, paper moved to machine production in the first half of the 19th century. Eventually a chemical process was developed that was able to break down wood fibers into purer cellulose that created stronger bonds.
The smoother Wove paper these new screens produced proved in many ways to be the perfect substrate to print on but it also left printers with two basic problems. In 1885 a similar baryta coating (barium sulfate mixed with gelatin) began being used to size photo papers before the photosensitive emulsion is applied.
Unfortunately many of these new colors proved to be fugitive and either faded or changed color over time. As ink supplies dwindled a worldwide crisis in the printing trades arose and the pallet used for postcards would have more to do with available supply than with actual need. If a color is uneven and exhibits no discernible grain it was most likely a water based paint applied by hand with a brush. Without this general trend the printing trades would have remained a minuscule industry and there would be no such thing as postcards, at least not in the way we have come to know them.
By the 19th century screw presses had become obsolete for commercial printing for they were just too slow to compete with the newer bed and platen models. They could be powered by steam and still be operated by pressmen utilizing traditional skills.
In the West woodcuts had been used to place designs on fabric before paper was available and they became a staple in printed image reproduction from as far back as the 1300’s. Unlike most other printing methods a great deal of pressure is not needed for woodblock, so once a thin paper was placed upon an inked block the image could be transferred simply by burnishing the paper’s back. Under magnification however these cut lines are not as rigid as one might imagine for wood is an organic substance whose edges will crumble away without regularity. It is often difficult to tell the difference between a woodblock print and a lithograph since they both capable of producing solid continuous tones.
On more modern prints this is often just considered part of the process but in general these unplanned for markings were undesirable.
This procedure can continue multiple times creating ever darkening layers until the image is complete. In the detail below we can see that after the whites were cut out the light grey would have been printed, then the block was cut again to create the brown design.
A very long and exacting regiment of apprenticeship was eventually developed for those working in this medium so that every artist allowed to draw an image would have had years of experience cutting, inking, and printing.
From a print pulled off this key block the drawings for the next blocks could be prepared and then the pasting and cutting would continue until there was a separate substrate for every color the image required. Because these tonal or color gradations are not in the block itself but created by the skill of those who ink it there are always variations from one printed image to the next. While Japan largely adopted Western methods to produce postcard stock, they continued to manufacture thinner papers for printing. While very tight color registration could be achieved a white line was often visible between each cut piece from the loss of the sawed substrate.
This outlining also made it possible to use a brush or daub to ink each isolated area with a single color that would yield fairly consistent results. During the 19th century wood engravings became the primary source of printed imagery for public consumption. Specially crafted gravers are utilized to push wood out of the block in a precise manner more reminiscent of metal engraving with burins than the knife cutting of woodcuts.
Cutting wood away to leave a thin black line behind is a somewhat unnatural act that does not lend itself to the best use of the material. This method had changed very little in the 400 years since the goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg first put this concept into practical use. Letterpress overprints in color were also a method of highlighting text on an otherwise purely black & white card.
Over time metal casts would be made of the wood engraving so it could be stereotyped along with the text for printing on faster rotary presses. To create larger images a number of these small blocks are glued together to form one large substrate. Many early line blocks were created in the style of wood engraving and they are hard to differentiate on postcards without magnification. This may be at least in part do to the techniques ability to reproduce the tinted look of watercolors; a strong tradition in England.
In the detail below the card’s strange array of markings almost look as if they were cut out from wood. Rubber stamps were not used in the commercial printing of postcards but by the 1970’s they became and important tool in the creation of Mail Art cards. The edges of the metal substrate (plate) are beveled so not to cut the paper while under the extreme pressure of the press. Wooden construction was eventually replaced with all metal construction so even heavier pressure could be employed for a better transfer between plate and paper.
The difficulty in working with a hard metal substrate has generally meant that engraved lines must be cut decisively and with care. When engraved lines are placed close together on metal they can be made to print a solid black. Even though various styles of engraving developed in different European nations, all engraved lines are best controlled when laid down parallel to one another. Titles, captions, and small bodies of text such as lines from poems or songs were sometimes engraved into the border of these pictorial plates. Engravings on steel are still primarily used for the printing of stamps, money, and certificates where high press runs are needed. Many plates all with the same identical lines could be made this way to speed up production. The layer of steel applied by electroplating was so thin that it could be used with any intaglio process without fear of disturbing the image.


While the clean wiping of the plates surface still gave them a similar appearance to that of a traditional steel engraving, the lines created with this tool tend to have a uniform depth with a very shaky uneven edge. If lines are drawn to close together they may combine to form one large unintended hole (crevasse) after being placed in an acid bath. Some ink residue (plate tone) is usually left behind, which gives each impression a slightly different appearance. Unfortunately the various textures that produced light tonal values from metal plates proved to be much more fragile than etched lines and they wore down quickly under the heavy pressure of the rolling press.
These patterns can be somewhat controlled by varying the amount of dust applied, the size of the crystals in the powder, the amount of heat the plate is exposed to, and of course by the length of time the plate is etched in acid.
Soon after in 1657 Prince Rupert of the Palatinate sped up the process by substituting the burin with a heavy curved blade with a serrated edge (rocker) that is rocked back and forth across the plate’s surface to create lines of small incised dots. With such fine detail in this piece, if you cut to fast you will probably cut sections you don’t want to cut! Campfire Chic is about accepting challenges, setting achievable goals, and documenting the journey toward the finish line. An understanding of these three basic printing techniques is essential to grasp the evolution that has brought us up to present times. These simple basics principals have not changed over time but the printing trades could have never developed as they did without the innovations that began in the mid-18th century. Though this chemical process replaced the slow laborious task of grinding wood, it was not often used until methods of removing the vast impurities within it were developed in the 1870’s. One was that the natural absorbency of paper soaked up ink, which created a good bond but diluted the intensity of the image. Coated papers were well suited for lithography but not intaglio printing where the paper is routinely soaked before printing to remove most of its sizing.
The most common of these were small rectangles in a waffle like grids that produced the illusion of linen.
As fierce competition grew between England and Germany to invent and patent new synthetics, more careful research was done to insure color stability but a reliable pallet for printing would not be found until well into the 20th century. In postwar years the manufacturing of inks became more global though Germany still held an edge until World War Two. A smaller version known as a hand press would have a much longer life and play a role in postcard production. By mid-century much commercial work had switched over the speedier cylinder press, which had proved its excellence in printing newspapers and large book editions.
Relief printing grew in importance with the invention of the moveable type press a century later, but as metal became the choice substrate of skilled artists the quality of woodcutting fell into decline. A small amount of embossing may form around cut edges of the final image if heavy pressure is used to transfer it onto paper. The borders surrounding inked areas on woodblocks are often darker as the pressure from printing forces ink outwards till it spills over the cut edge (ink squash). Some printers saw opportunity in this effect and developed the process known as lowering, which could create softer grey within an otherwise solid black tone or a vignetting effect around printed edges. Since only one substrate is used, any single color must be printed on all the needed copies before it is cut into again. These color prints were so widely popularized by a culture that had reserved more elaborate forms of art to their elite that woodblock prints remained in strong competition with more modern techniques well into the 20th century. Labor in the production color woodblock prints was traditionally strictly divided by experience. Compound prints have been made from woodblocks since the 15th century but they have proven too slow to print for modern commercial use. Theoretically the entire block could be inked at once but usually only one color was printed at a time so any spill over of color into areas beyond its designated white boundaries could easily be wiped clean. No sooner did the process reach supremacy than it came into competition with newer printing techniques that would replace it before the century’s end. If engraved lines are placed too close to one another the wood between them may crumble away rendering the peak too low to pick up ink. Some tinting tools were even developed so that multiple parallel lines could be cut at one stroke speeding up production. The finished product would often look forced because it was being made to appear as something it was not. With the invention of the linotype machine whole lines of reusable cast text that were easy to produce replaced single letters.
Almost all early printshops of size contained a variety of presses capable of printing different mediums. When working with a team these small blocks would only be temporarily bolted together, then coated with a wash of white paint so that the master artist could more easily make his drawing. As more complex methods of adding even more color to an image were developed this simple technique largely fell out of use. After being backed with another sheet of metal the glyphograthic plate would be mounted on a block and rolled with ink for printing in the manner of letterset.
The plate is then dusted with rosin crystals, which will only stick to the tacky litho ink. After curing the rubber is pulled from the mold and once mounted on a hand grip it is ready to use. This leaves behind an embossed ridge around all four edges of the print known as a plate mark. Even when etching was used exclusively in a reproductive work by commercial printers, it was usually called an engraving.
This basic method continues to be used by artists working in intaglio today but it proved to be relatively slow for most commercial printing.
These demands dictate a certain uniformity between the look of all engravings and often has a stronger influence on the final product than the individual style of the artist. This is due to the strength of the substrate combined with the angle of cut that is placed by a deliberate hand.
Sometimes a metal punch with random array of dots on its head (mattoir) would be struck into a plate with a mallet. The deep relief of this surface allows steel engraved plates to be wiped completely clean without fear of removing too much ink.
Even after photo technology made it easier to create multiple plates this method continued to be used to print money and stamps where millions of copies were needed.
When the iron facing began to show wear it could be electroplated again leaving the copper in perpetual mint condition. Printing ink is held inside the etched lines and wiped clean from the plate’s surface.
The etched pattern below is unusual as lines were usually drawn in at a narrower angle to one another to avoid a screen like look. In the late 19th century it became common for printers to pull a little ink out of etched lines on purpose after the initial wiping to create more plate tone (retroussage), but most plates used to print postcards were wiped as clean as possible. These techniques largely survived for they proved adequate for artists to work with but they were not suitable for larger scale commercial printing. By painting on an additional acid resist (stop out) to selected areas of the image during the etching process, some parts can be left blank to print white and the tonal areas could be bitten down to various depths by subsequent acid baths to produce a full range of tonal values.
The amounts of white produced could somewhat be controlled by varying the dilution of components but this was difficult to control. When the entire surface of the plate is covered with near parallel lines a new set of lines are rocked onto the surface at a differing angle.
Today these same techniques have been largely abandoned by commercial printers that must follow market dictates. In 1798 Nicholas-Louis Robert became the first to figure out how to make paper in rolls (webs), with Thomas Bonser Cromton perfecting this machine for commercial use in 1820.
This new method not only brought down cost, it greatly increased the supply of paper so urgently needed by the fast growing printing trades. As pigment migrates into paper it is masked by fibers that prevent light from reflecting off of it and back to the eye creating dull colors and soft edges.
This is a necessary step to allow paper to better stretch under the high pressure of the press and be pushed into the incised lines.
The texturing of paper for the most part was originally done just to add to the appeal of the final product by drawing up associations with artwork such as paintings on linen canvas.
These problems may have influenced the general scaling down of colors used to make postcards as much as economic incentives, but the lack of pure hues would also hamper those attempting to apply prevailing color theory to simplify printing methods. With many trade secrets taken as part of war reparations the United States has now become the world’s largest producer of ink.
These easy to use hand powered devices were often utilized by small businesses not related to the printing industry, and even amateurs at home could print up small paper products in low quantities because of the ease of setup. While the cylinder press became the chief competitor to the platen it required special training to use and was not suitable for printing smaller items in more limited quantities.
When postcards were first manufactured traditional woodcutting was no longer used in commercial printing outside of Japan. Presses were eventually used to produce more relief prints in less time with the same incentive as today; time is money.
Sometimes the peaks left in the gouged out dead zones can inadvertently pick up traces of ink and print.
The image area of the block was gently burnished to fall just under the printing plane where it might pick up small amounts of ink. If prints are lost due to registration problems along the way the final press run is diminished as there is no going back to print more. When Japan began to produce privately printed postcards in 1900 this technique was one of those widely used in their production. Some cards were hand printed on traditional thin sheets of mulberry or rice paper that were totally unsuitable for mailing. This allowed for a bit more complexity in the design from a technique that imposed limits on drawing and encouraged simple stylization.
Only here in wood engraving it is the surface areas that will be inked and print while those lines incised by the burin will become the dead zone and remain the color of the paper. Instead of carving out black lines Bewick treated the surface of the block as a black field into which he would incise highlights out of in white. Compositors who had traditionally set loose type into forms at no more than fifty lines per hour were thrown out of work by this innovation, but the underlying principals of this process remained unaltered. Afterwards the clamps would be removed, and each piece given to an individual engraver to work on. Producing images from multiple substrates however would become the dominant method of color printing. Typically only three blocks would be cut and inked in red, yellow, and blue, which created a very distinct look.
The coating that the artist drew through proved to be problematic; it had to be thick enough to provide a workable relief but thin enough so that thin lines could be laid down with ease. These stamps used a more liquid and fast drying form of ink with greater similarity to that used with a pen than on a press. Because of this many artists have been referred to as engravers when they have never made anything more than etchings.
This design would eventually evolve into the cylinder press, patented by Friedrich Konig in 1811, and then a practical rotary press by the mid-19th century. While any metal can be engraved copper was the substrate of choice because it is softer than most and lacks directional grain. This not only speeds up printing but creates identical sharp crisp images that are more difficult to forge as no plate tone residue is left behind to create unique impressions. Many other delicate processes such as aquatint and mezzotint could now be commercially printed, though still in limited quantities.
These engraving tools would find much more use after they evolved into electric needles for tattooing.
If a line is etched too wide and shallow, a crevasse is formed and ink will tend to only cling to its sides.
The lack of line depth also made etched plates wear out quickly so this method was rarely used for commercial work.
This changed to some degree when they were adapted to steel facing but the shallow plates remained problematic. Plates with aquatint patterns on them can also be burnished to shallow out their ink cells, which will bring up white or lighten tone. Few printers were using this process by the late 19th century, though it seems that it may have been used in conjunction with some photomechanical techniques on postcards. Before the turn of the 20th century the race to exploit new technological breakthroughs led to a massive amount of experimentation that was often based on nothing more than trail and error rather than scientific principals. The use of rolled webs was instrumental in speeding up the printing process and led to the development of the Flatbed Cylinder Press, though most postcards would be printed on slower sheet fed presses. Even on Wove paper the natural roughness of cellulose fibers were another problem as they could diffuse fine detail.
Gravure is the only exception to this since it requires far less pressure to create a printed image from its shallow surface. In the 1930’s the practice of embossing would gain more practical applications as an aid in speeding up the drying time of dye based inks.
If created with paints other than watercolor they will sit on top of the papers surface and sometimes show indications of brush marks. Their existence in small shops all over the country would eventually create the climate for the stock postcard. To meet these special needs Daniel Tredell of Boston built the first small scale version of this press in 1818 that became known as the Jobbing Platen. The rare postcards made from woodblocks in the West most often appear between the two World Wars and are most likely to have been published by the artists who created them. Seeing wood grain in an image however was not generally a desired trait in commercial prints and it tended to be avoided.
Lowering however could not give consistent results so it was used sparingly on both woodcuts and wood engravings.
These were sometimes mounted onto heavier stock but it may be advisable to look upon these items more as novelties than as postcards. Proper registration was usually achieved by pinning the printing paper to the side of the block, but this meant that each print would be made start to finish one at a time. Even when it was no longer an economically viable printing method wood engraving remained so popular with the public that cheaper printing methods sometimes tried to imitate its look. Because of the hardness of these blocks, and their lack of directional grain, wood engraving could reproduce pictures with much finer details than those cut from planks of wood, but still only as solid tones.
This method that became known as white line wood engraving attracted many followers and it has become the predominant stylistic approach to this medium since the 19th century.
Prints created by this process are characterized by the same solid tones found in traditional woodblock printing, but because the inked form presses the image directly into the paper it creates a slight embossing that is often noticeable even when printing occurs on heavy card stock.
Some engravers specialized in cutting skies or faces and so each piece would be portioned out accordingly. Commercial printers would abandon the use of wood engraving in the 1890’s but by then this style was so familiar that many would carry on this tradition in the form of color line block printing (chromotypography).
It was picked up from a soft ink pad and then transfered by the simple pressure of ones hand to paper or an object. As printers appropriated these methods line etching and engraving became the most common traditional uses of this medium.
Metals are made up of crystals that can directionally align when being rolled into sheets; and this grain can cause problems for an engraver when cutting curved lines. Textured cylinders at the end of wooden handles (roulettes) could also be rolled over a plate’s surface to roughen it up.
Though used to reproduce numerous images this process was not well liked among illustrators because of the clean sterile look that it produced. Lines drawn on copper bite downwards, but if drawn on a zinc plate the lines will also widen.
If lines are drawn too close to one another they can under-bite in the acid and run into each other. Most etched postcards were printed in the early 20th century by artist cooperatives or small publishers in limited numbers. Only two of many tonal methods, aquatint and mezzotint are discussed here for they have some relevance to postcard production. The surface of aquatints are very shallow rendering them very susceptible to wear so they do not hold up well to the large press runs required by commercial printing.
The rocker does not just create holes in the substrate it rips up its surface creating accompanying minute metal burs that also hold ink as in drypoint. This resulted in many intriguing techniques, many not mentioned here for their complexity kept them from being applied to commercial use.
Both of these problems were partially solved by compressing paper under heavy rollers once they dried. Many such cards were produced by artists throughout the 19th century, not as postcards but as tokens and souvenirs.
Establishments who did not have enough customers to order a full press run of an original image could buy small quantities of generic cards and use their small hand press to customize them to their location or for a specific event, or even to advertise a particular product.
It was basically an American invention eventually manufactured in many varieties to satisfy specific needs.
Visible wood grain only became acceptable at the very end of the 19th century when artists began incorporating their materials into the visual meaning of their work. It was only when all these skills were mastered so what lay ahead was well known was an artist allowed to make an original drawing. Those woodblock postcards produced on heavier paper stock were most likely printed on a press.
While wood engraving has disappeared from the commercial scene it is still has ardent practitioners within the art community. Gradations had to be created optically but they could be much more subtle thanks to the finer lines. These were finely trained craftsmen whose role was to engrave to a set style and not add their own individuality to the process.
As the acid eats away at the metal the original surface will only remain under each of the rosin dots where the transferred image had lain. As intaglio began to be used to reproduce works of art a wider range of incising methods were developed to better create tone. While very delicate tones could be created with all these tools their popularity died out in the early 1800’s.
Lines created through an acid bite have rough edges do to the chemical reaction that formed them. Some cards even have blank backs, which may indicate they were printed by the artists who drew them.
Its use for the most part was replaced by lithography in the early 1800’s and rarely employed afterwards outside of the fine arts except in very limited printings. This process is known as cold press, and when the roller is heated to create an even smoother surface it is referred to as hot press. This procedure became a common practice with trade cards before it was used in conjunction with postcards. This strict procedure was designed so that problems would not arise for anyone working under them. When each piece was complete all sections would then be reassembled, glued or bolted back together, and the master artist would finish engraving the image along the lines where all the pieces met up.
After a sufficient dead level has been created and the rosin removed the plate can be rolled with ink and printed as a relief. While a number of intaglio techniques now exist they can all be used in conjunction with each other on a single substrate.
A variation of this method is stipple engraving, where small holes are gouged out of the plate by a different type of burin to create the illusion of tone though an accumulating density of marks. Though individual etched lines are not discernible without magnification from the smooth edged lines made through engraving, the overall effect is very different and apparent to the naked eye. While not used to produce postcards in its pure form, the aquatint process was eventually combined with photogravure to give it a finer more even texture.
Both of these press types have played an important roll in the printing of postcards since their inception. Planks could be scoured with a wire brush to exaggerate the differences between the hard and soft areas of wood grain thus bringing out the contrast even further. Sometimes these glued edges would pick up ink or more often crumble away and unwanted thin white lines would appear in the final image. Around since the 16th century, intaglio was used commercially for low volume printing because of its high cost and the poor durability of plates created by certain methods. Etched lines have a natural ease about them because they are initially drawn rather than cut. The larger purpose for this transfer is so that the metal plate could be mounted on a wooden block and printed alongside type as letterpress. While postcards were not created in paniconography, this process was elaborated on by Gillot’s son Charles into the Gilliotype.
This would soon evolved into line block etching, which would become instrumental to postcard production.



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