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Engraving: The “Donald Draper” of Printing

Written by: Laurel

Engraved Airmail

It is one of the most complicated and expensive types of printing. However, there is no other technique that creates a raised effect on paper with as much depth, clarity, and color precision as engraving does. The effect is both eye-grabbing and sophisticated. No matter how long engraving keeps us waiting with its lengthy lead-times, all of the ladies at Lion in the Sun have an ongoing love affair with engraving!

For fun, we made of list of some of our favorite engraving facts. Enjoy!

  • Engraving on paper first took root in Germany by goldsmiths in the 1400’s. Goldsmiths used it as a method of recording the intricate designs they made on armor, jewelry, and instruments.


  • Engraving became wildly popular after German artist Martin Schongauer (he learned from his father, who was a goldsmith) began using the technique to make dimensional prints of his artwork. In Italy, he went by the names Bel Martino and Martino d’Anversa.


  • Though other forms of printing can mirror similar effects of engraving at a lower price, engraving cannot be 100% mimicked. The trick that will tell you if something is engraved or not: It always leaves a signature mark on the backside of the paper. You know you are holding something that’s been engraved by flipping it over to see and feel exactly where the paper has been hit from the back.


  • Engraving is still used widespread to print currency, passports, and expensive postage. The intricate effect it has on paper makes it the perfect ally against counterfeiting.


Check out the photos below of our favorite engraved pieces.


Above: A gold engraved airmail envelope. Dated 1972 from Bern, Switzerland.


Above: Engraving evidence. The impression or “bruise” on the back of a piece of engraved paper.


Above: an engraved invitation from Lion in the Sun.


Above: An engraved copperplate.


Above: an engraved copperplate.

What does your favorite piece of engraved art look like? Tell us in the comments section below!

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