In mezzotint, a metal plate is systematically worked over with a spiked tool (called a "rocker") until it is thoroughly roughened. If inked at this stage, it will print nearly solid black. The image is created when the engraver smooths out graduated highlights with a scraper or burnishing tool; the more burnished an area is, the less ink it will hold, and thus when the plate is printed the design will emerge from basic blackness.
To create a color mezzotint, separate plates are prepared for each color, which are printed successively (so the colors are superimposed on one sheet). This method requires extreme precision: the plates must be exactly aligned so the colors do not appear out of register. The artist must give careful forethought to which elements of the composition should be drawn on each plate and in what order the plates should be printed to produce a cohesive final image. Here the individual plates are displayed next to a sheet where they have been printed separately to show how the artist conceived the design for each color.
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