Etching and

Etching and mezzotint are both methods of intaglio printing, where the image is incised into a metal plate with either a sharp tool or acid (which ‘bites’ away the metal). These incised lines hold the ink and create the image when printed.

Escher made only three small etchings, very early on in his life, but found the process not to his liking. In 1946, he began making mezzotints, a very laborious technique that enabled him to create prints with an infinite range of tones.

When making a mezzotint, the entire surface of the plate is roughened with a toothed metal rocker which, when inked, prints as a rich black. Burnishers and scrapers are then used to smooth the areas of the plate that will form the lighter parts of the image. The smoother the area, the less ink it will hold and the closer it gets to white.

Intaglio prints cannot be printed by hand, so Escher used a small printing press to print his mezzotints.


All M. C. Escher’s works and texts © The M. C. Escher Company, the Netherlands. All rights reserved