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What is mezzotint?

Mezzotint is an engraving technique developed in the seventeenth century which allows for the creation of prints with soft gradations of tone and rich, velvety, and deep blacks.

Mezzotint is created by engraving a copper or steel plate by rocking a toothed metal tool across the surface to prick the entire surface with small holes.  Each small hole will hold ink, and if printed at this stage the image would be solid black. But the printmaker creates dark and light tones by rubbing down or burnishing the rough surface to various degrees of smoothness to reduce the ink-holding capacity of areas of the plate. It is a monochrome printmaking process of the intaglio family that yields half-tones without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching, or stipple.  It was much used in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries, especially for the reproduction of paintings.

Categories: Printmaking Terms, Types of Prints