Mezzotint, another intaglio process.

Particularly popular in 18th century England, mezzotint provides a grayscale print with a wide variety of hues.

Engraving "Jean Martin Charcot" by Claude Weisbuch
Jean-Martin Charcot, is the discoverer of a neurodegenerative disease that bears his name. His very realistic face is highlighted by the “black manner” technique very mastered by Weisbuch.

That said, the complexity of the long and delicate technical process quickly made it obsolete. For information, obtaining good graining on a 20 x 30 cm slab takes about ten hours.


The bevels of the copper plate can be made using different tools called bevellers or simply roughed out with a file and then finished either with emery cloth or with a scraper and burnisher to dull the sharp edges of the plate.


The objective of this stage is to produce a matrix which, once inked, would produce a black print. This operation consists of covering the copper with tiny cavities alongside which pins form. The grain must be even and deep to hold the ink properly.

The cradle is used to perform this operation. This tool, equipped with a more or less finely serrated semi-circular cutting edge, leaves a dotted line on the copper. There are cradles of various sizes and of different fineness.

graining of a copper matrix

All the detailed steps of engraving Click HERE, duration 1 minute 50

One holds vertically, the cradle in the hand. This can also be attached to the end of a device intended to facilitate graining. The angle of attack of the teeth on the plate is likely to modify the graining and advancement of the cradle on the copper. Some are in favor of an acute angle, others of an obtuse angle, still others of a right angle.

In addition, it is necessary to rotate the copper plate, to obtain a satisfactory graining. Indeed, to obtain a deep black, the graining must include at least thirty passages in all directions. When the copper is dull, the engraver “reads” the copper using a magnifying glass or a thread counter. The plate is sufficiently cradled, when there is no shiny surface.

It takes at least ten hours of time to rock a plate of 20 x 30 cm.


The sketch or transfer of the drawing is usually done in pencil directly on the grained copper or using carbon paper to transfer, if necessary, a preparatory drawing.

We scrape or polish the grained plate, so as to lighten the areas that we want to see emerge from the black background. For these purposes, a scraper and a burnisher are used to work the grain, raking or leveling the surface of the plate. This relief work determines the colors of the final proof.

A light print value results from a raked or flattened grain.

A light print value results from a raked or flattened grain.

The progress of the work is monitored using a luminous screen generally consisting of a layer stretched in front of a lamp. The engraver can also use a binocular magnifying glass to execute the details.


Successive impressions under strong pressure tend to crush the grain of the copper and therefore to deteriorate the range of values ​​of the black way.

To limit the problem, steeling aims to make the copper hard like steel. This operation consists in covering the copper with a very thin layer of iron by electrolysis. It becomes necessary if one wishes to print more than thirty prints.


Printing is the common feature of intaglio engraving processes. Indeed, the inking method and the material used are the same.

All Stages of Mezzotint Printing. Duration 1 Minute 49 Seconds Click HERE

For limited editions, once the number of copies is obtained, the copper is crossed out twice so as not to be reused. Unlike lithographic stones, which “fade”, copper plates are single-use.

Summary table of printmaking methods

summary table of printmaking methods

Download summary table of printmaking methods, click HERE

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