Mellan was born in Abbeville, the son of a customs official. He studied under Simon Vouet in Paris, but showed more interest in engraving than painting. He then went to Rome, where he lived from 1624 until 1636. The many plates he engraved there were mostly executed in a conventional manner, but after his return to France he adopted an idiosyncratic technique, in which, instead of creating shade by cross-hatching, he used a system of parallel lines, regulating tone by varying their breadth and closeness.Joseph Strutt wrote
The effect, which he produced by this method of engraving, is soft and clear. In single figures, and small subjects, he succeeded very happily; but in large subjects, where great depth of shadow was required, he has failed...
Of particular note is his engraving Sudarium of Saint Veronica (1649), created from a single spiralling line that starts at the tip of Christ's nose.
^ abcdStrutt, Joseph (1786). "Claude Mellan". A Biographical Dictionary Containing All the Engravers, From the Earliest Period of the Art of Engraving to the Present Day2. London: Robert Faulder. pp. 142–4.