Mezzotint is a printmaking process of the intaglio family, technically a drypoint method. It was the first tonal method to be used, enabling half-tones to be produced without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple. Mezzotint achieves tonality by roughening the plate with thousands of little dots made by a metal tool with small teeth, called a "rocker." In printing, the tiny pits in the plate hold the ink when the face of the plate is wiped clean. A high level of quality and richness in the print can be achieved.
Definition: La manière noire ("the dark manner")
The term reveals its meaning. A mezzotint–from the Italian mezzo ("half") and tinta ("tone")–presents halftones. Specifically, in this type of intaglio (nonrelief) print, subtle gradations of light and shade, rather than lines, form the image. (For a complete history of mezzotint, see the link to the National Portrait Gallery Web site below. For a bibliography of sources related to mezzotint, see the link to the Print Council of America Web site below.)