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How Do I Become a Photoengraver?

Andrew Kirmayer
Andrew Kirmayer

To become a photoengraver, also known as a prepress technician, one must know how to print on zinc and copper plates, use polishing abrasives, and prepare the plates for printing. Computers and graphic design software are also important photoengraving tools, so learning how to use popular programs that professionals work with is imperative. Traditional photoengraving techniques can be learned during an apprenticeship, but more advanced skills are attained through study at higher education art schools.

Education is the first step for photoengravers. Formal degrees are not always required, but it is usually recommended to have an associate’s degree to become a photoengraver. Community college programs in the field will often suffice as well. If the eventual goal is to manage an office or business and not just do photoengraving for personal projects, then a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is normally required. Before enrolling in a higher education institution, it is important to make sure that the school offers a specific degree or concentration in photoengraving or a related program that will meet your needs.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Specific skills and abilities are needed to become a photoengraver. These include an understanding of chemistry and how different chemical processes and substances interact. Techniques and safety are also important to learn. Knowledge of fine arts, mathematics, computers, and design techniques is also essential. A photoengraver must know how to create technical plans for their work, which includes making blueprints, drawings, and models.

Aspiring photoengravers should also evaluate their abilities. They must be able to tell different colors apart, as well as see the differences between their shades and brightness. In this field, technicians have to handle small parts with their fingers, and keep their arms and hands steady while working. They also need good dark vision, a sense of how rules and patterns are ordered, and to be able to visualize how things will look before tasks and projects are done.

As with most careers, an education is invaluable. To become a photoengraver, one can also learn the ropes during an apprenticeship, which can last several years. This field is declining in demand, and the job outlook is very minimal for aspiring photoengravers. Anyone with a degree or at least an internship stands a better chance of getting work. The journey begins with assessing one’s inherent abilities and then finding a way to break into a photoengraving job or complete a certificate or degree program.

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