A halftone, or halftone image, is an image comprised of discrete dots rather than continuous tones. When viewed from a distance, the dots blur together, creating the illusion of continuous lines and shapes. By halftoning an image (converting it from a bitmap to a halftone), it can be printed using less ink. Therefore, many newspapers and magazines use halftoning to print pages more efficiently.

Originally, halftoning was performed mechanically by printers that printed images through a screen with a grid of holes. During the printing process, ink passed through the holes in the screen, creating dots on the paper. For monochrome images, only one pass was needed to create an image. For multicolor images, several passes or "screens" were required.

Today's printers are more advanced and typically do not contain physical screens. Instead, the halftone images are generated by a computer and the resulting image is printed onto the paper. By using a process called dithering, modern printers can randomize the dot patterns, creating a more natural appearance. This produces realistic images using far less ink than fully saturated ones.

Like a standard bitmap, the quality of a halftone image depends largely on the its resolution. A halftone with a high resolution (measured in LPI), will have greater detail than a halftone with a low resolution. While the goal of halftoning is typically to create a realistic image, sometimes low resolutions are used for an artistic effect.

Updated September 2, 2014 by Per C.

quizTest Your Knowledge

Which occupation focuses most closely on SERPs?

CAD designer
SEO specialist
Audio producer
Digital photographer
Correct! Incorrect!     View the SERP definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of Halftone on this page is an original definition written by the TechTerms.com team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of TechTerms.com is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.