The technique was developed in the mid-18th century, invented by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince. It was popularized in the 18th century, used earlier rather rarely. J.C. Le Blon, who in 1710 created the foundation for color print from three plates of basic colors, contributed to development of color aquatint; initially, introduction of color took place in mezzotint, followed by aquatint. In the 18th century, color aquatint was used primarily for reproduction of paintings and drawings. In the 19th century, aquatint was used by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, who contributed to development of this technique.
It is an intaglio printmaking technique close to etching. In etching, lines are etched on a metal plate, whereas in aquatint – on surfaces. The effect of stains of varied intensity is achieved by proper regulation of the time of etching of individual tones. Aquatint reminds a drawing made by a brush, which is frequently combined on one print with etching. Copper or zinc plate is dusted with powdered rosin or asphalt, and later melted by heating. After etching, the effect is light spots on a dark background. The opposite effect – dark spots on a light background – is achieved by using, for example, table salt, spread on the surface of a plate covered by etching varnish, which is later melted and flushed with water. There are three ways of making aquatint: state etching (consecutive covering of the plate with varnish), direct etching with an acid solution with the use of a brush on the plate, and toning of oxidizing pastes on a non-dusted plate surface (gray tones in a limited number of prints). About a hundred of prints can be obtained in aquatint technique.