Classical copperplate engraving emerged in the first half of 15th century in the workshops of the goldsmiths. The latter, to control the images engraved on silver or golden plates, made impressions on the paper. Then they had an idea to reproduce such images. Even nowadays, the engravers use the same instruments as the goldsmiths of that time. These are burins, dies, burnishers and scrapers.
The copperplate engraving is an intaglio printing technique. The lines of the drawing are carved in the plate, the ink is put inside the grooves with the help of a wad, and then the remains of the ink are wiped off the surface of the plate. The polished plate is covered with a humid sheet of paper and the image is printed under a very high pressure, with the help of rollers of a printing press. At first, copper plates were used.
The copperplate engraving is a labour-consuming technique that needs a great professionalism. An engraver needed to have a great knowledge of technique and a real mastery. He had to work slowly, minutely and carefully because it was impossible to make essential corrections. First copperplate engravings were created by goldsmiths and carried more exquisite images than the woodcuts. In the second half of 15th century professional painters started to work with copperplate engraving transforming it into a new genre of art.
The engravers work with lines and strokes. When the lines creating the shape are rhythmic and precise, when the strokes are numerous and well-directed, the artist can create light-and-shade, images and details, tones. Finally, the engraving ceased to be an independent genre of art and became a reproduction technique which permitted to make multiple copies of paintings, sculptures and drawings.