Mezzotint on aluminium: Percy Cat

Detail of the finished mezzotint
Detail of the finished mezzotint

I had another play with the mezzotint rocker yesterday, with a proper sketch first and everything. I took some photos as I went along, but I’m not going to explain the ‘rocking’ process in much detail as you can see that on this post of a few weeks ago.

A cross-over has occurred between my two blogs – the drawing that this mezzotint is based on is one of my cat-of-the-day sketches. The printing plate is aluminium and is cut to the same size as the prints I have made into coasters. For a while I have thought that the drawings of Percy in his beanbag would make a good set of images for my ‘Art Under Your Coffee’ coasters, but then, there is nothing to stop them being framed prints instead…

Aluminium plate with drawing first in pencil and then fineliner penAluminium plate with drawing first in pencil and then fineliner pen
Aluminium plate with drawing first in pencil and then fineliner pen

One thing I have not shown in any posts on mezzotints before, is drawing on the un-rocked plate first of all with a pen. This is because the first mezzotint plates I used were bought ‘pre-rocked’ that is, with the rough texture all over them first. The mezzotint rocker (see this post) is what puts the texture on the plate and I only aquired one recently, so up to now I had to struggle to get a tracing to show up on this roughened surface.

Now, I do like a nice fine outline to work to, so imagine my delight when I discovered the first time I used the rocker that pen lines are not obliterated by the texturing process! Above is the drawing sketched in pencil and then the final outlines picked out in fine liner pen – I imagine any sort of permanent ink would do so long as it doesn’t readily come off with water or oil.

Below I have started ‘rocking’ the plate – putting the texture on it that is the starting point for a mezzotint print.

After two passes of the mezzotint rocker
After two passes of the mezzotint rocker

Here – below – I have finished the texturing process and as you can see the pen line is almost as sharp as it ever was.

rocking completed
Rocking completed

Close-up of the surface of the plate – the whole surface is covered with pock-marks which will hold ink when this plate is printed.

detail of the rocked surface
Detail of the rocked surface

The next stage is to burnish the design in – I only took one photo of this as the light was fading, but the burnishing smooths out the pock-marks again, so that these smooth areas will print a lighter colour where I want them to (see this post for a bit more detail on burnishing). For burnishing on aluminium you need oil as a lubricant, but even this didn’t shift the pen lines.

beginning to burnish in the image
Beginning to burnish in the image

After that, the plate is inked-up, and the surface ink wiped off again (a process that requires some practice to get it right), and it is put through the press with a piece of paper that has been soaked in water to make it soft, then surface-dried.


The print, lifted from the plate
The print, lifted from the plate

The photo below shows, on the left, the aluminium printing plate, on the right, the print. At this point I admit that in my enthusiasm for trying out a new toy I forgot that the print would come out backwards, but hey, Percy looks quite similar from either side šŸ˜‰

the plate and the print
The plate and the print

I should say that the one weak point of the mezzotint process is the inability to create very fine white lines, so I wasn’t sure how well the original drawing would translate without the fine hairs and whiskers, but I think Percy has come out quite satisfactorily šŸ™‚

The finished mezzotint print
The finished mezzotint print



  1. I LOVE THIS! It’ a great print; it’s a great blog. The ultimate in printmaker geekery. Brilliant. šŸ˜€

    1. Hi Rosie, thank you! šŸ™‚ from a fellow geek I appreciate that xx

  2. […] Mezzotint on aluminium: Percy Cat. […]

  3. Reblogged this on JHladikVoss57's Blog and commented:
    great print demo-mezzotint on aluminum plate

    1. Thank you! šŸ™‚

  4. The drawing itself is quite wonderful: a completely catlike cat. The print is even better, and I very much enjoyed reading about your process.

    1. Thank you Mrs Daffodil! Always pleased to hear that people appreciate my explanations – never quite sure otherwise if people are listening šŸ™‚

  5. Absolutely brilliant! Love it šŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Wendy šŸ™‚

  6. Mgon ā™„

    Percy came out really great. He looks cute, soft, and fuzzy.
    Congrats on your success! šŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Mgon šŸ™‚ Percy is cute and soft and fuzzy, though some mice might beg to differ!

  7. Reblogged this on Cat-of-the-Day and commented:

    A cross-over between my two blogs: I converted one of my cat-of-the-day sketches into a mezzotint print – it doesn’t really belong in this blog, but I thought just a little mention…

  8. Great print, redolent of cat-ness. Fine white lines are possible in mezzotint, at least on copper: what you need to use is a ball burnisher, which burnishes metal at about a hair’s width, in conjunction with light oil ( to float loose metal particles away )

    1. Hi Phil, thank you! And yes, I have one, but I have found that because the result is recessed it is hard to do a really clear bright line, it is more of a subtle thing. Of course I only have limited experience with mezzotint on either copper or aluminium so it may be a question of practice. Aluminium is cruder to work with, but rocking the plate is easier I imagine! (had pre-rocked copper plates the time I tried that)

  9. […] A few months ago I posted a series of photos of the last mezzotint print I made – ‘Percy Cat’. There are some explanations in that post, and links to more explanations, so if you’d like […]

  10. […] Below is the initial sketch on the aluminium plate, all the rest of the detail was made up as I went along. For more on the mezzotint process, have a look at my previous posts, like this one: […]

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