I am looking to achieve this dot pattern (stippling) effect in some way, be it analog or post processing. If you can identify this technique and some tips on how to go about it? It has a print look to it and reminds me of old comic book pages.


3 Answers 3


Photographs that are to be printed in books, magazines, newspapers are converted to a "half-tone". The most common way this was done:

A finished photograph on paper was supplied to the printer. This photograph was copied using a giant camera, common to all shops that prepared photographs for publication.

The camera contained a screen, not unlike window screen. These hovered just over the film in the camera. A copy was made on photographic film. The resulting image revealed a pattern of dots. Each dot is a different size, proportional to the blackness of the original photograph, in that location.

The resulting negative, called a "half-tone" was exposed onto a metal plate coated with light sensitive emulsion called a resist. Development etched the metal. The etching pattern replicated the dot pattern.

Ink was applied to this plat. It was used much like a rubber stamp to make ink copies of the original. Just look at any picture in a newspaper or your school book. Use a magnifying glass, you will see this dot pattern. Digital photo editing software can apply a dot pattern image to your digital images.


This is called halftone or screen tone and traditionally in ye olden days, was done with screens. Today, you can easily do it on any monotone image in Photoshop with the following steps:

  1. Image → Mode → Bitmap and set your output resolution.
  2. Under Method, select Halftone Screen from the drop-down. Click OK.
  3. Select a Frequency value for the size of the dots you want; the lower the number, the bigger the dots. The Angle is the angle at which the dots are positioned. Shape is the shape of the dots.
  4. Click OK.

With the Gimp, the Newsprint filter is probably what you want.

If you're doing this with pen and ink for a comic book page, then you simply need to go to an art supply store and look for screen tone stickers. Back in the day, the comic book artist staple brand was Zip-a-Tone. But since most comics artists today are digital and use Photoshop and Illustrator to do their pages, digital screentones are used instead.


You may have heard the term "Rag" and if you answered Newspaper, you are correct, and exactly that, the paper we use in printing newspapers. There's a fascinating history here and some research on YouTube will teach you how to make your own paper as did Johannes Gutenberg and later Benjamin Franklin, whether it be for newsprint or high quality parchment for oil painting, water color, or charcoal.

Having said that mouth-full, let's get to your description of "stippling effect". Your easiest and most user controlled method will be a layout program for rags & mags. Photographs are printed using what are called "line screens". An example would be what we used at the Sun Herald for a more rough and absorbent newspaper; an 80 line screen @ 45 degrees. This is standard for news rag as more lines tend to run the ink together. Imagine trying to print tiny dots on a paper towel. What a mess.

Now, black and white and color are totally different beasts. Color printing uses a rosette pattern with CMYK (Cyan[a medium Blue], Magenta[a medium Red], Yellow, and Black Ink) which combine to create all colors. Higher quality magazines, and even some inexpensive home office printers may even use six or more colors. Basically all using the same method of varying the shades of color or black (256 shades of Black for Grayscale) by applying larger or smaller dots to the paper, allowing more or less of the White paper to show through thus lightening or darkening the images in all the right places to produce your picture perfect photo print.

So, in review, Black news print uses 80 to 100 lines per inch with a screen turned almost always to 45 degrees, and color uses a flower shaped dot pattern with the screens for each color used at a different degree angle so as not to print directly over the the other colors. Quark Xpress on Mac was our preferred layout program, but Adobe and now thousands of programs allow full control over your line screens and angles. The fewer the lines, the larger the dots, etc. Linux has programs for FREE!!!

Photoshop and other photo editing programs have some effects such as "Old Picture" or "Newspaper", but your best bet is to print directly from a layout program, allowing for total control of your image, and don't forget, layout programs don't change your original image, so you can change the Line Screens and angles and highlights and contrast at any time simply by importing the photo once, then changing the settings at will, so there.

If you plan to print your publication en mass, your local newspaper will do it for you quite inexpensively, usually 10,000 minimum. Last year my cost for my Golf Publication for 10K was about $600 for Tabloid,which BTW, Tabloid is really just the size of the paper, not the content. You can print it at home on a quality laser printer and paper, 80-100(ask your printer) Lines x 45* B&W, and let the program do your color separations for you (they will be printed Black on White paper).(4) = 1 for each CMYK color. If the Pro printer does the separations, it can get quite costly. Do them at home and take the prints to them and they will make the plates and usually, if you don't mind being up at 2 or 3 AM, you can go and watch the process, including the exposing of the plates, loading them onto the rollers, the first inking and roller adjustments and first run on a huge press. Fascinating. Good Luck, Hope this helps. I loved every minute of my years as a Graphics Artist and Editor of my very own publication.

Have fun with this and experiment with your photographs. What a fun job.

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