Engraving refers to the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it. Engravings include among others mezzotint, drypoint and etchings as described below.
Mezzotint is a printmaking process of the intaglio family, technically a drypoint method. It was the first tonal method to be used, enabling half-tones to be produced without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple.
Mezzotint achieves tonality by roughening the plate with thousands of little dots made by a metal tool with small teeth, called a "rocker." In printing, the tiny pits in the plate hold the ink when the face of the plate is wiped clean. A high level of quality and richness in the print can be achieved.
The mezzotint printmaking method was invented by the German amateur artist Ludwig von Siegen (1609–c 1680). His earliest mezzotint print dates to 1642 and is a portrait of Countess Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg.
Drypoint is a printmaking technique of the intaglio family, in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed "needle" of sharp metal. In principle the method is practically identical to engraving. The difference is in the use of tools, and that the raised ridge along the furrow is not scraped or filed away as in engraving. Traditionally the plate was copper, but now acetate, zinc, or plexiglas are also commonly used.
Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design incised in the metal. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today.