Renaissance Press Photogravure

Copper Plate Photogravure - Single Acid Etch - Significantly Shorter and Simplified Process

The process outlined below was devised during a workshop demonstration.   We had an extra processed gelatin step tablet on copper and etched it in a single bath of ferric chloride.  Instead of controlling the humidity and waiting hours for the gelatin to dry the plate was placed on a hot plate to dry.  After twenty-five minutes the plate was cooled to room temperature and placed in one ferric chloride etching bath.  I was surprised it worked and have been using this method with fairly consistant results ever since.  If a film positive and tissue are prepared in advance it can take less than two hours to process a photogravure plate.  The process outlined below was created using Dragon Gravure Tissue and an Epson Printer.   It is a simple outline.  There is a considerable amount of information between the steps. 

  • Create a film profile limited to a maximum density of 1.4.
  • Print a digital 21 step tablet on your film of choice.
  • Sensitize Dragon Tissue in a 4% potassium dichromate solution chilled to 45 degrees for 75 seconds.
  • Use equal tone and aquatint exposures.
  • Degrease the copper.
  • Place the degreased copper plate in distilled water chilled to 45 degrees.
  • Slide the exposed tissue face side up into the tray with the copper.
  • Flip the tissue over and position it over the copper.  Remove the copper and tissue from the bath at a gentle angle.  I use a thick glass sheet positioned on an overturned tray in my my sink as a surface for laminating the gelatin tissue and the copper.  The surface you squeegee on should be close to the temperature of your mating bath.
  • Blot the backing paper and wait 75 seconds.
  • Immerse the plate into 115 degree development water.  Wait two minutes before peeling the tissue.
  • After 4-8 minutes of minutes of agitation and hosing the clearing is complete.
  • Place the plate in a 50% tray of isopropyl alcohol bath for 2 minutes.  Remove the plate from the alcohol and flood with 75% isopropyl.  Agitate the plate in hand.  Flood the plate twice within 45 seconds.
  • Dry the plate as evenly as you can.  Rock the plate and watch the alcohol closely.  Modify your technique to make the alcohol evaporate as evenly as possible.
  • Allow the plate to rest with air circulation for twenty minutes.  
  • Mask the plate.  
  • After twenty-five minutes of total drying place the plate on a hot plate heated to 120 F for twenty-five minutes.
  • After twenty-five minutes move the plate to a room temperature surface.
  • As soon as the plate has cooled to room temperature etch in 40.3 ferric chloride.
  • Proof.
  • Create a profile.  Make plates - Make prints.  
  • Review the photogravure reference page for trouble shooting and more information.


  • Look closely at everything.
  • If you have problems run through the entire process with very bright lights on. 
  • Use a head magnifier. 
  • If something is not working properly repeating what you did will not make it work.
  • Experiment - read - study.   Do not believe everything you read.
  • Don’t sneak up on things.  Test and test again.