To create an engraved print an image has first to be engraved onto a thin copper plate. This can be achieved by etching the design or by hand tooling it but in both cases the image is cut into the plate, rather than raised above the plate surface as in letterpress. Nowadays most plates are etched from the computer generated artwork but some hand tooling is often still required on etched plates to capture fine details or rout out larger areas. Once the plate has been engraved its surface is inked and then wiped clean leaving the engravings full of ink. The press then forces paper into the inked recesses and thereby transfers the image onto the surface of the paper by creating an impression. The image is raised from the surface of the paper perceptibly to both the eye and to the touch. The area immediately behind the image carries some bruising and feels slightly indented and this indicates to the discerning viewer that the item has been engraved.
The three dimensional character of engraving and tremendous tactile appeal is reinforced by the crisp, well-defined images that it produces.
Engraved printing inks are opaque and their opacity allows the engraving of light-coloured images onto darker paper stocks. They also give a matt finish which is much admired.