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What is an Engraving Bruise?

The process commonly known as "engraved" printing is actually known in the printing industry as die stamping. Die stamping involves using a metal die or plate that has been etched (engraved) with an image that will be left on the paper by a combination of pressure and, except in cases of a blind emboss, ink. The etched areas on the surface of the engraved plate fills with ink. That ink is transferred to the paper with an enormous amount of pressure, and held in place by a counter. The counter is an additional plate that is created in reverse to catch the ink and pressure with precision. The exact placement and construction of the counter allows for the raised ink image on the reverse side of the paper. The combination of these two plates leaves a "bruise" on the back side of the imprinted paper where the engraving counter was. The bruise on the back of the paper gets its quality from both the precision of the craftsman creating the counter, and the thickness and texture of the paper being die stamped.

What's special about the bruise?

The bruise is a tell of engraved (die stamped) printing. Modern methods of printing have been developed to mimic the look of engraved printing by using powders and chemicals that raise applied ink as it dries on the paper. These newer printing methods, for example thermography, are a less expensive way to achieve the look of engraved printing.

Given the craftsmanship and technique required to execute proper die stamping—or engraved printing, the cost of such pieces is quite a bit higher than the more economical printing methods. The bruise on the back of an engraved card has become the hallmark sign of a quality printed piece.

In other words, you paid a lot for that bruise!

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