The Origin of Halftones
Lithography, for all its nuance, was still relatively slow, and relied on skilled printers. The development of photography and photomechanical processes accelerated the speed of industrial printing. Out of this was born the halftone, an essential feature of newspapers and therefore comics.
Akin to engraving plates (that is the creation of a raised metal surface), photomechanical plates employed halftones screens that, when imposed on photographic images, created small dots of varying size that would blend together in the eye to create gray tones. The printing plates were metal, made from molds.
The printing presses are the ones we know from movies and TV -- loud, hot, and the size of small buildings. These are the kinds of printers that were used by large newspapers, and it’s these large newspapers where comic strips were born. For all its terrific visual qualities, stone lithography couldn’t complete with mechanized, photomechanical relief printing…and the halftone.