Rotogravure Printing

The Easter Parade, Judy Garland, and rotogravure

In the Easter Parade, the 21st film to win an Academy Award for best picture, Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) sings to Sally Adams (Judy Garland) – “On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us, and you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.”

Rotogravure in a famous post WWII musical

Easter Parade is a great musical, even rottentomatoes.com users gave it 91%, but what the heck is the rotogravure Fred Astaire mentions in the song?

What is rotogravure printing process?

The word “rotogravure” is a combination of “rotary” and “gravure,” and many people don’t know what it is.

Rotogravure is one of the oldest printing processes and uses a drum (or cylinder) as its printing plate. The drum consists of a series of etched cells that allow the ink to pass through. The ink is distributed evenly over the drum, and then a web is applied to the drum. The web is then fed through the press, and the image is transferred from the drum to the web with the help of a volatile solvent. The solvent is applied to the back of the drum and makes the ink stick to the drum. The rotogravure machine was invented in 1875 by Albert L. Wagner of Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the first mechanical gravure process used in the printing industry.

The two key things that make this printing process unique are:

  • the type of plate used (metal cylinder/drum), and
  • the process of applying ink to the plate. (The ink is applied to the plate using a gravure process instead of the more commonly used lithographic process.)

How does gravure printing work?

A gravure printing press uses a combination of textured rollers, oil, ink, and paper to add an image to a page or card. The rollers used in a gravure printing press are forced between two rollers, with one roller moving faster than the other. This can be a higher-speed roller on top and a slower roller on the bottom or a faster roller on both ends of the roller. The rollers are coated with special ink, which is then transferred onto the paper.

What is the gravure cylinder (drum)?

Gravure cylinder is a type of roller in screen printing. They are used in the printing of the image on the substrate. Gravure cylinders are cylinders or cones, or both of them combined into a cylinder with a hollow axle. Gravure cylinders are a few millimeters thick and take a while to dry after they are printed. It is mainly used for printing a large number of copies of the same image.

The image is formed by the successive build-up of a fine pattern of metallic silver and other chemicals on the cylinder surface during development.

Is gravure printing expensive?

Hmmm.

In the beginning, rotogravure printing was a promotional tool that advertisers and publishers used to get consumers to try their products. The idea was to get customers to see just how beautiful and detailed rotogravure could be and hopefully entice them to buy the product that was being advertised. But as time went on, newspapers and magazines started to find other uses for rotogravure besides just advertising, and new printing technology made the process more affordable than before.

You can get an idea of the cost of gravure printing by looking at the prices for the various types of ink. Printing using black ink is very cheap. Printing with colored ink is very expensive, but the ink’s cost is only a tiny portion of the overall cost of printing with four color process.

Gravure printing is a printing technique that uses a series of tiny images, each a different color, that are printed in a repeating pattern. Gravure is an excellent option for printing high-quality images on products like postcards, business cards, gift and loyalty cards, paper invitations, and brochures. We can also use it for printing on products such as mugs, plates, and other dinnerware. Although gravure printing is the most expensive printing process, it produces higher quality images than other printing processes like lithography and letterpress.

So the verdict is Yes, (roto)gravure printing is cheaper now than ever, but it still is an expensive process.

Rotogravure and the short-run printing

Rotogravure is an intaglio method of printing that uses a continuous roll of paper. In intaglio printing, the image is carved into the surface of a metal or plastic medium, and a roller transfers the inked image onto a sheet of paper (or another material).

Rotogravure IS NOT the best solution for short-run printing. The changing of cylinders in between prints in this process takes time, and the cost of the gravure printing cylinder is still relatively high. Therefore, although gravure printing is ideal for large jobs like long-run magazines, it’s not suitable for small jobs.

What is the difference between offset and gravure printing?

The primary difference between offset and gravure printing is the method used to distribute the ink. With offset printing, plates are made from a photographic image and adhesive that are attached to the press. The plates are used to transfer ink to the next surface, such as paper.

Gravure is a specialized type of printing that transfers ink using engraved cylinders. Both offset and gravure printing are used for large-format printing, such as posters, magazines, and books.

What is the difference between flexo and gravure printing?

Flexo printing is when thin inks are printed onto a roll of flexible medium, e.g., rubber or polyester film. The film is then passed over a cylinder with a screen image being extruded by a vacuum. A blade then cuts the image, and the result is a printed image on a large sheet. The picture is precise, clear, and high-resolution. Flexo printing is often used for newspaper production and other applications where high quality is needed.

Gravure printing or “intaglio” printing is based on the principles used in the early days of printing: when people used printing images in a metal plate (intaglio means carving in Italian). Today, a cylinder is used instead. 

What type of ink is used for rotogravure printing?

The process of creating a high-quality rotogravure print is no easy task, requiring the use of many different inks and a complicated mechanical process that can be easily ruined by even the most minor mistake.

The ink used for rotogravure printing is a unique material called gravure ink. It is a resin-based ink type (a unique blend of dyes and organic solvents) that is pigmented to achieve the deep, rich colors we’ve come to expect from the printed page. Gravure ink is the same colorant used in color newspaper printing. Its unique chemical composition, gravure ink, cures when exposed to heat and becomes resistant to water. 

What causes the ink to be raised in thermographic prints?

The ink has a natural tendency to rise in thermographic printing, and this causes the thermographic printing to be very bright. The ink is not bright, but the raised ink on the paper results in a very bright and colorful image. This rising effect is caused by a lack of adhesion between the ink and the paper.

The gravure ink is formulated to react to the thermographic paper’s temperature. When you place an object on the paper, the object’s temperature is applied to the paper. The heat is then transferred from the object to the paper. The ink reacts to the rising temperature of the paper. The ink then raises and causes the object to appear as if it is embossed on the photo.

Rotogravure is the queen of all printing methods.

Gravure printing offers a top-quality print, precise colors and it can create a wide range of gradations in tone, even with a limited number of inks. Rotogravure printing can ensure the best grid pattern and has the highest color density and photo printing quality. Compared, e.g., with flexographic printing, you will print the same image with fewer colors but higher quality colors.