AskDefine | Define halftone

Dictionary Definition



1 a print obtained from photoengraving
2 an engraving used to reproduce an illustration [syn: halftone engraving, photoengraving]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Half the interval between two notes on a scale.
  2. A picture made by using the process of half-toning.



*German: Halbton *German: Rasterdruck


  1. To reproduce a photograph or other continuous tone image by the use of dots of various sizes.


  • OED2

Extensive Definition

Halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of equally spaced dots of varying size. 'Halftone' can also be used to refer specifically to the image that is produced by this process. The semi-opaque property of ink allows halftone dots of different colors to create another optical effect—full-color imagery.
Several different kinds of screens were proposed during the following decades. One of the well known attempts was by Stephen H. Horgan while working for the New York Daily Graphic. They published "the first reproduction of a photograph with a full tonal range in a newspaper" on March 4 1880 (entitled "A Scene in Shantytown") with a crude halftone screen.
The first truly successful commercial method was patented by Frederic Ives of Philadelphia in 1881..
Early laser printers from the late 1970s onward could also generate halftones but their original 300 dpi resolution limited the screen ruling to about 65 lpi. This was improved as higher resolutions of 600 dpi and above, plus dithering techniques were introduced.
All halftoning uses a high frequency/low frequency dichotomy. In photographic halftoning, the low frequency attribute is a local area of the output image designated a halftone cell. Each equal-sized cell relates to a corresponding area (size and location) of the continuous-tone input image. Within each cell, the high frequency attribute is a centered variable-sized halftone dot composed of ink or toner. The ratio of the inked area to the non-inked area of the output cell corresponds to the luminance or graylevel of the input cell. From a suitable distance, the human eye averages both the high frequency apparent gray level approximated by the ratio within the cell and the low frequency apparent changes in gray level between adjacent equally-spaced cells and centered dots.
Digital halftoning uses a raster image or bitmap within which each monochrome picture element or pixel may be on or off, ink or no ink. Consequently, to emulate the photographic halftone cell, the digital halftone cell must contain groups of monochrome pixels within the same-sized cell area. The fixed location and size of these monochrome pixels compromises the high frequency/low frequency dichotomy of the photographic halftone method. Clustered multi-pixel dots cannot "grow" incrementally but in jumps of one whole pixel. In addition, the placement of that pixel is slightly off-center. To minimize this compromise, the digital halftone monochrome pixels must be quite small, numbering from 600 to 2,540, or more, pixels per inch. However, digital image processing has also enabled more sophisticated dithering algorithms to decide which pixels to turn black or white, some of which yield better results than digital halftoning.


halftone in Czech: Polotón
halftone in German: Druckraster
halftone in French: Halftoning
halftone in Japanese: 網点
halftone in Polish: Raster (poligrafia)
halftone in Portuguese: Meio-tom
halftone in Russian: Полутоновое изображение
halftone in Slovenian: Raster

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Maxwell triangle, Munsell scale, chromatic circle, chromatic spectrum, chromaticity diagram, color circle, color cycle, color index, color mixture curve, color solid, color spectrum, color system, color triangle, complementary color, consecutive intervals, degree, demitint, diapason, diatessaron, diatonic interval, diatonic semitone, enharmonic diesis, enharmonic interval, fifth, fourth, full color, fundamental colors, half step, half tint, hue cycle, interval, less semitone, melodic interval, metamer, monochrome, note, octave, parallel octaves, primary, primary color, pure color, second, secondary, secondary color, semitone, seventh, sixth, solar spectrum, spectral color, spectrum, spectrum color, step, tertiary, tertiary color, third, tone, unison interval, whole step
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