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(from Italian mezza tinta, halftone) Engraving produced by pricking the surface of a metal plate with innumerable small holes that will hold ink. When the engraving is printed, the ink produces large areas of tone with soft, subtle gradations. Engraved or etched lines are often introduced to give the design greater definition. Mezzotint was invented in Holland by German-born Ludwig von Siegen in the 17th century but thereafter was practiced primarily in England. Its adaptability to making colour prints made it ideal for the reproduction of paintings. After the invention of photography, it was rarely used. In recent years the technique has been revived, especially by U.S. and Japanese printmakers.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mezzotint, visit Britannica.com.