What is a Mezzotint?
An engraving technique capable of producing very fine gradations of tones; its name derives from the Italian mezzo meaning middle. Using a special tool called a rocker, a metal instrument with serrated half-moon edge, the printmaker roughens the entire surface of a soft metal (copper) plate. Were the plate printed at this stage, ink would cling evenly to the surface and print completely black. Working from dark to light, the artist uses a burnisher to smooth out areas of the plate. Areas burnished smooth hold no ink. The artist can achieve a range of tones by varying the smoothness or roughness of the metal surface. This extremely demanding medium is rarely used today. McPherson hand rocks all of his plates, and, in most cases, prints the editions himself.
Image #1 - Mezzotint tools clockwise from top left: rocker, scraper, burnisher, roulette.
Image #2 - A partially rocked copper plate.