Ornamental engraving can take many forms, the most typical being scrollwork, as that is uniquely suited to the cutting techniques used in engraving. Scrollwork can be designed in a number of different styles. The examples here range from vine scrolls to relief acanthus scroll work. Each has its own characteristics and appeal. The simplest, fastest to cut, and therefore least expensive style is the vine scroll. Many of the main scroll elements are composed of a single line; leaves and other features grow out of these gracefully coiling and uncoiling stems as they wend their way across the surface. Although simple, they must be carefully designed and accurately cut since with so few lines in the design, each carries a lot of weight.
More-developed motifs based on the acanthus leaf have scrolls depicted as unfurling leaf tips with other leaf forms flowing out of and filling in between the main elements of the design. Often shading is incorporated. Shading is accomplished by making many very fine cuts which gradually deepen and converge. These fine lines appear as a darker area against the bright surface and can be used to impart life and a three-dimensional effect to the design. The background areas between the leaves and scrolls can be left alone or shaded with parallel lines or stippled with a point tool which imparts a matted texture.
To emphasize the design further, the background areas can be cut back below the original surface, so that the design now stands in relief or proud of the background. Cutting away the background adds significantly to the amount of work involved and thus to the cost, but the results are dramatic. Relief work generally has the lowered background treated by stippling, beading or lining to absorb light and appear darker. The plane below has had the background lowered and beaded, and darkened for even greater contrast.
Of course, other types of imagery or decoration are worthy engraving subjects as well-
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