Mezzotint is a type of intaglio printing in which light and shadow, rather than lines, form the image. First, the artist roughens the copper plate to produce a burr on the plate that holds ink, thus making black the default shade. Then, the artist selectively reduces or removes the burr to produce areas that will print as lighter shades.
Because the plate degrades rapidly, only a small number of first-rate impressions can be made. Also, mezzotint is considered a difficult medium for artists to master.
The name comes from the Italian mezzo, "half," and tinta, "tone."