Photogravure is a direct image gravure printing process where the image is etched into a plate using a photographic process. This process involves screening the image which produces rows of cells which make up the image. You always have a cell, so straight lines are made up of a row of dots (cells). Because the ink involved with the gravure process is less dense and more a liquid, the ink tends to fill in solid areas (These solid areas are really made up of large cells, close together). The edges of designs using this process are not distinct.

You can see in the photo that everything, including the text, is made up from small cells or dots. Looking closely at the illustration, you will see these dots/cells along the edges of  lines on the stamp. You can not have a perfectly straight line in Photogravure, although some modern screens are very fine, making this screening very difficult to see.

The design of a stamp to be printed by Photogravure usually is photographed through a very fine screen.  The screen breaks up the subject into tiny dots which are then etched into the plate.  The depressions formed from this process hold the ink.  The paper comes in contact with the plate and the ink is lifted from the plate onto the paper.  This is very similar to Intaglio, except that there is little or no raised feeling to the ink because of the very thin layer of ink.

Photogravure is generally used for multi-colored stamps and utilizes four basic ink colors: magenta, yellow, cyan and black.  A separate plate, which had previously been prepared by photographically separating the colors, is required for each color.

Electronic engraving using computer generated screens is now used on many modern stamps, so these stamps may not show some of these characteristics. 

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