Art Term

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 and velvety blacks

John Martin, ‘Plate from ‘Illustrations to the Bible’: Belshazzar’s Feast’ published 1835
John Martin
Plate from ‘Illustrations to the Bible’: Belshazzar’s Feast published 1835
Tate

The process involves indenting the metal printing plate by rocking a toothed metal tool across the surface. Each pit holds ink, and if printed at this stage the image would be solid black. However the printmaker creates dark and light tones by gradually rubbing down or burnishing the rough surface to various degrees of smoothness to reduce the ink-holding capacity of areas of the plate.

The technique became particularly popular in eighteenth-century England for reproducing portrait paintings.

Related terms and concepts

Art Term

Engraving

Engraving is a printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the ...

Art Term

Ink

Ink is an ancient writing and drawing medium in liquid or paste form, traditionally black or brown in colour – ...

Art Term

Tone

The lightness or darkness of something – this could be a shade, or how dark or light a colour appears

Art Term

Print

A print is an impression made by any method involving transfer from one surface to another

Selected artworks in the collection