Works on Paper      Professional Framing Services

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Fine Impressions Gallery is a fine art print gallery offering a wide selection of original antique and contemporary handmade prints and other works on paper, including watercolors and drawings. We have something for every interest, including architecture, botanicals, maps, birds, historical subjects, literary subjects, satire, costumes, and much more. Our professional framing services will protect and display your artwork, providing a lifetime of enjoyment.

Serving the
Northwest
art community
since 1981

Gallery Hours:
Tues-Sat 11-5
or by appointment

"Maggot Bearing Stapelia"
Robert Thornton, Mezzotint, 1812  
8300 5th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98115
206-784-5270

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THE MAGIC OF MEZZOTINT AND AQUATINT
and why we love them
Mezzotint and aquatint were invented in the mid 1600’s by artists who wanted to create painterly prints. Both methods produce images with soft, rich tones and deep colors – without the artist using lines at all. Images are created with delicate shading. The processes are opposites: in mezzotint, the artist starts with black and creates lighter shades; in aquatint, the artist starts by blocking out the whites and moves to darker layers. Both processes are intricate and complex, and require extreme attention to where shading and colors will be in the final print.


“Indian Utensils and Arsm”
Karl Bodmer
Mezzotint 1832-34



“White Ibis”
John Costin
Aquatint



“A Calm”
C. R. Stock
Aquatint 1893

AQUATINT
Aquatint produces an image that is similar in softness to watercolor – hence the name aqua (water) tint. The artist begins by dusting the plate with rosin to create texture, then uses heat to bond the rosin to the plate.

To create the image, the artist first identifies the white areas of the finished print. Then, using an exceptionally fine watercolor brush, the artist carefully covers those areas with asphaltum, to protect them from the acid bath. The exposed areas of the plate will gradually be etched to create a surface to hold ink. The more exposure to acid, the deeper the etch, which creates the darker areas in the final print.

After a short acid bath, the plate is washed and is ready for the next paint-out. The artist identifies the areas that will remain the first light etch, producing a light gray tone, and paints out those areas to protect them from further etching. For example, the artist paints around tree branches, instead of drawing lines.

This process is repeated many times until all the values from white to black are achieved. When the design is completed, the artist removes the protective asphaltum and prints the plate. A full color print requires at least three (red, yellow and blue) plates or more in perfect registration. The image on the left below is an enlargement showing the soft tones of the work in detail.


“Quai a Brugges”(detail)
Roger Hebbelinck
Aquatint



“Debutantes”
David Harrison
Aquatint



“Edge”
Nicole Tercinet
Aquatint



“A Landscape (Italian)”
After Rosa Salvador
HC Aquatint 1818



“Betel Tree”
William Daniell
Aquatint 1807



“Shadow Creek”
Stephen McMillan
Aquatint

MEZZOTINT
To create a mezzotint, the artist starts by using a tool called a rocker to create minute burrs covering the entire plate. At that point, the plate would print completely black, from ink in all the burrs. To create various lighter tones, the artist uses a tool called a scraper to remove the burr, or a burnisher to flatten the burr. The more the artist removes the burrs the less ink they hold. This creates a range of shades from black to white in the printing process.

The wide range of tone is what gives mezzotint its name. In Italian Mezzo means “middle,” and the process creates a wide range of mid-tones (tints). It produces images that are deep and velvety. As in aquatint, a full color print requires three or more plates.

The image on the left below is an enlargement showing the finely detailed forms created with mezzotint. The image looks a bit fuzzy because, in a close-up view of mezzotint, you see the shading this technique uses. Three plates were used for the color print, and the intricate pattern on the bowl, with its small white lines, shows how the plates had to be precisely lined up for printing.


“Pour Chardin” (detail)
Laurent Schkolnyk
Mezzotint



“Man Riding Horse”
After James Seymour
Mezzotint 1787



“The Visitation”
Chris Nowicki
HC Mezzotint


“Cerinthe”
Joann Weinmann
HC Mezzotint 1739


“Anioly” (Angels)
Agniescza Gubicka
Mezzotint

Want to learn more about the various processes artists use to make prints? See our Printmaking Terms section on the left navigation bar. Stephen McMillan’s website has a detailed description of the aquatint process on his website (see Links).


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We are continually adding new listings, images, and information to our website. Please contact us if you are interested in an item that is listed without an image, or if you have any other questions about our inventory or services.