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What is Rotogravure?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rotogravure is a term commonly used in the printing business. Rotogravure is the method of engraving an image to an image carrier. Images are usually engraved on a copper cylinder with rotogravure in order to be further pressed on paper reels. The process of rotogravure is often referred to as "gravure" for abbreviation.

Rotogravure presses can produce a vast range of print jobs. They can be as narrow as labels used on envelopes or shipping packages, or as wide as 12 feet (about 3.66 meters) wide rolls of vinyl. The rotogravure press is not restricted to just paper or foil. In fact, materials such as plastic or foil can be printed on through several processes that include electrostatic pull and applied pressure.

A rotogravure press includes an ink fountain engraved cylinder, a doctor blade, a dryer, and an impression roller. The engraved ink fountain cylinder is versatile enough to be changed to meet the requirements of each job layout. Generally, these changes are made by adjusting its circumference.

A printing job on a rotogravure commences when the cylinder is dipped into the ink. As it is immersed, the cells of the cylinder become filled with ink. Each rotational movement of the engraved cylinder causes it to become filled with more ink.

Next, the material to be printed on is placed between the engraved cylinder and the impression roller. In this way, the ink from the cell is transferred to the material. The final process is for the material and the newly applied ink to pass through a drying method. The drying process prepares the material to receive another color of ink.

Each color on a rotogravure press has its own printing unit. These colors are referred to as CMYK in the publishing profession. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key, with “key” being a the print name given to the color black.

Besides printing, a rotogravure press also has the capacity to produce saddle stitching. Saddle stitching is commonly used for holding together magazines and brochures. Rotogravure presses can print magazines that have a long run with over one million copies.

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Discussion Comments
By Ivan83 — On May 09, 2011

Its amazing how much printmaking has evolved while remaining fundamentally unchanged. The rotogravure printing process is part of a long tradition of etching methods. People used to carve into wood blocks and use simple inks. Now they can print any image, in any color, onto almost any product. The ends are different but the means are basically the same. Flexography is a fancy new printing process that is basically an update of the letter press. The basic principles of print making never stop being useful.

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