2014 Projects: Mezzotint

Starting a new project: mezzotint! Mezzotint is an intaglio process that uses tools instead of acid to create the image. Because I can’t have acid in my studio, mezzotint is an attractive printmaking method. The initial reference I used is Ross and Romano, The Complete Printmaker. Most of the other printmaking books I have are specific to collagraph and relief printmaking, but Ross and Romano do have a short section on the process of mezzotint.

Mezzotint is a drypoint method where the pits and burrs on the plate are created using a specific tool called a mezzotint rocker. The plate must be rocked in several different directions (at least eight) to create a surface that, when inked, will print as black. This can take up to six hours depending upon the size of the plate. One then goes into the plate with scrapers and burnishers to pull out the tonal values. 

I had intended to use a zinc plate but, after consulting Ross and Romano and several excellent sites from artists who specialize in this process, I decided to use copper instead. Copper is recommended because of the metal’s hardness, which is key when one starts printing. I would not want to lose all my detail after one printing of my plate.

february2014 008 Here is a photo of my copper plate and my mezzotint rocker. Rockers come in various grades, depending on how coarse or fine you want your burrs to be. My rocker has a medium (85 gauge) screen.

february2014 010 The rocker is held perpendicular to the plate and “rocked” back and forth. If you look closely, you can see that the edge of the rocker is serrated.

february2014 016 This is a close-up of my plate after I rocked the surface in three directions. It looks a little like plaid to me, and it is a challenge trying to keep the lines even.

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