Engraving techniques

Photoshop's Bitmap mode is commonly used for low-quality, low-resolution image compression. But you can also use this mode to imitate the line work of old print engravings. Scott Gursky reveals how.

If you've ever looked closely at the dotted lines running throughout a £10 note and been struck by the fine quality of its illustration, you've already come face to face with a printing technique known as engraving.

Engravings are part of an age-old tradition of printing. To create an engraving, an artist will burn an image on to a metal plate using chemicals. The plate is then inked and run though a printing press. Pressing paper to the inked metal will produce the image, giving almost photo-realistic results.

The tiny details and fine lines made possible by this process can often be found in book illustrations and manuscripts, and are still used today in paper currency and greetings cards, as well as in hundreds of other applications.

But is there any way to emulate the detail of an engraving using only digital means? Is there any way that we can create the look of an engraving without spending hours drawing tiny lines? The answer's yes: with some experimentation, you can use Photoshop's Bitmap mode to create a pretty realistic-looking imitation of this traditional process.

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