Dragonfly Tidytip Engraving

As requested, some detail about how this was done. This is a process in development, details are guaranteed to change! I still have work to do in getting more uniform toning in the large fields, especially the sky, more on that later. The oval measures 130 mm x 90 mm, the image is about correct size on my monitor. I’ll cover the art creation now.

Creating the Art
I used Affinity Designer for the art, I’m sure Illustrator will do, possibly Inkscape. The first step once a motif is established is to create the outlines of the principal features. I frequently rely on photographs for a guide. In the case of the mid-ground rock formations I snapped a pic off the TV screen and traced vectors over the prominent features.

These lines will be inked in black later on but also used to create the color fields. To do that I create masks which will distinguish ‘sun’ from ‘shade’.

The enclosed areas here are the ‘shade’ with will consist of parallel lines to take up the ink. I prefabricated a set of parallel lines with 0.15 mm spacing which seemed the best after testing.

In Designer there is a command called Divide which will clip those parallel lines to the other curves but leave them as vectors useable for SVGs.

It’s a bit more work creating the ‘sun’ fields having to incorporate the outlines drawn earlier. Shown together and colored:

Note: I found it best to NOT engrave over other lines. I typically stop lines at the edges of other lines (drawn at 0.10 mm width). Yes, enormous work. So, if Im using a matte for, say, both the sun and shade as with the rocks, I will size the matte line at 0.10 mm and use Designer’s Expand Stroke function to give me two lines 0.10 mm apart, one for the sun area and one for the shade.

For the dragonfly, I curved the line grid in areas:

The foliage was also cookie cuttered out from a somewhat random pattern of vector lines:

After all the art is complete I separate the elements into “passes” which can be engraved then inked without the ink contaminating neighboring areas. Here’s pass 1:

Likewise, passes 2 through 7:


@bpedit -Thanks for the detailed explanation on how you created this wonderful art! Always nice to be learning.

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Thanks for taking the time to explain your process. As you said there is an awful lot of work involved, the end result however is outstanding!

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Engraving and Inking
The engraving is done with a 30° included angle carbide drag bit. I replaced the spring with a lighter one so there would be less pressure difference in any unconformities in height. Except for the black, where pressure varied, the depth was 1.5 mm. This is also dependent on material used for the substrate which in this case was the faux ivory from Masecraft.

The process for each pass:
• engrave
• blow out dust with compressor
• paint on colored India ink, 3 coats
• sand furrow rims and excess ink
• paint on additional ink if needed
• sand to just about level

After the first six passes the work looked similar to:

Black is special; if you treat it simply as an additional pass, upon final sanding the black will be dragged into other areas making them look “dirty”. So, before that pass everything is carefully sanded to it’s final look, sans black:

I then spray with 4 wash coats of 1.5 lb. shellac followed by a clear water based pore filler to eliminate any dimples where the ink may accumulate unwantedly.

Not there yet.
Next time I do this I will either put delicate areas like the sky as later passes or, more likely, sand each pass to finish then do the shellac and pore filler between each pass. In addition to, hopefully, a cleaner look, I will be able to eliminated the extra inking counting on the pore filler instead of ink to fill the grooves.

If anyone wants to try this and wants more info, let me know. But first make sure you’re retired and have no social life.


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