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Engraving vs. Printing

Since the beginning of history, there have been many materials and methods used for recording ideas. Chiseled stones, cuneiform clay tablets, and Egyptian papyrus scrolls are some early examples. Now in the twenty-first century, a personal computer with an inkjet printer can produce high-quality text and graphics. Vibrant ink colors are available, as well as many choices of paper.

A basic printing process consists of applying black ink to white paper, producing a high-contrast, readable result. The ink color or the paper color may be changed, as long as the choices produce a good contrast. For example, yellow text on white paper is difficult to read. Black text on purple paper is also challenging. Some websites look great on the monitor, but are difficult to read once they are printed.

While printing adds one material (such as ink) to a base material (such as paper), engraving physically removes material from the base material itself. If the material is a single color, proper lighting is needed to ensure good contrast between the surface and the engraved area. Engraving deeper into the material also helps, by producing stronger shadows in the engraved area.

Engraving may be performed manually, as in the stone and clay examples mentioned above. More often, a computer-controlled engraving machine is the method of choice. This system offers the same advantages as desktop publishing, and produces a “hardcopy” that is much more durable than paper.