Monotype Prints 'printmaking techniques'

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Learn more about: Woodblocks | Lithography | Silk Screen | Etching


Monotype: "Tumbleweed" by Tim Chadsey
The art form known as the Monotype is an exciting, vibrant, mixed-media method of printmaking that delivers up an original, one-of-a-kind print that cannot be repeated. Thus the name "monotype."

Sometimes called the "painterly print", the monotype is a member of a larger printmaking family which includes: lithography, etching, serigraphy and the woodblock.

Monotype: "Going Across the River" by Tim Chadsey
The particular method I use is called viscosity printmaking whereby multiple layers of color are built up upon a Plexiglas or metal plate to form, in most instances, a dimensional appearance.

Monotype: "Pagoda Suite" by Tim Chadsey
The main medium is oil-based etching ink which is applied – with different viscosities - to the plate with rollers, brushes, small brayers, pieces of cardboard, rags, Q-Tips, bamboo sticks, and others objects for applying and distributing ink.

Stencils, collages, and transfers are often used in the composition of the image.

The composed plate is then printed on a flatbed etching press and one image – a monotype – is "pulled."

At this point a second residual image, called a ghost print, can also be obtained from the residue of ink left on the plate.

In this case, the ghost image will form the basis for the development of an entirely new monotype. Both prints are one-of-a-kind originals.

Woodblock or Woodcut Printmaking

Woodblock Print: "The Flirt" by Utamaro
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China as a method of printing on textiles and later paper.

The woodblock is the art of engraving on wood by hollowing out with chisels areas of a plank of usually cherry wood, pear, apple or boxwood, leaving a design on the surface.

The transfer of this design onto paper is then achieved by inking the surface with typographic ink and applying pressure with a press or by hand with a baren.

The woodcut technique was used primarily for decorating textiles in China as early as the 5th century AD and by the 15th century in Europe it was applied to religious images and playing cards.

The finest exponents of the woodcut in 16th-century Europe were the Germans, Albrect Dürer, Hans Holbein and Lucas Cranach.

The Japanese, traditional masters of the woodcut, especially with the Ukioye prints, are acknowledged as very important forerunners of much of the printmaking work done by westerners throughout the 20th century.


Lithography is the printmaking technique invented by Senefelder in Germany in 1796 which takes advantage of the repulsion between oil and water to transfer an image from a smooth limestone surface to a sheet of paper.

It is considered one of the most authentic means of artistic reproduction as it prints directly the touch of the artist's hand.
Lithography Stone of Princeton University
In Senefelder's process, the stone, with a design drawn on it with crayon or greasy ink, was wetted with water; after various etching and protecting steps, it was brushed with oily ink; it retained the ink only on the design.

This inked surface was then printed — either directly on paper, by a special press (as in most fine-art reproduction), or onto a rubber cylinder and then onto paper (as in commercial printing).

The method of preparing stones for hand printing, still the lithographic method preferred by artists, has hardly changed.

On the other hand, commercial lithographic printing on a modern rotary offset printing press can produce high-quality, finely detailed impressions at high speed, reproducing any material that can be photographed in the plate making process.

Silk Screen or Serigraphy

Silkscreen: "Skater"
by Andy Warhol
Silk screen or "serigraphy" (as it prefers to be known in fine-art circles) originated in China and found its way to the West in the 15th century. It's a stencil process based on the porosity of silk (nylon or other screen fabric) which allows ink to pass through the areas which are not "stopped" with glue or varnish.

One or more layers of ink are applied with a squeegee, each one covering the open areas of succeeding screens until the final composite image is achieved. Photographic transfers, both in line and halftone, can also be fixed to the screen with a light-sensitive emulsion.

Serigraphy took on the status of art in the late 30's in the United States when a group of artists working with the Federal Art Project experimented with the technique and subsequently formed the National Serigraphic Society to promote its use.

It is currently popular both in fine arts and in commercial printing, where it is commonly used to print images on T-shirts, hats, CDs, DVDs, ceramics, glass, polyethylene, polypropylene, paper, metals, and wood.


Etching and Engraving: "German Shepherd"
by Durer
Etching is a method of making prints from a metal plate, usually copper or zinc, which has been bitten with acid. The plate is first coated with an acid-resistant substance (etching ground or varnish) through which the design is drawn with a sharp tool (burin or other).

The acid eats the plate through the exposed lines; the more time the plate is left in the acid, the coarser the lines. When the plate is inked and its surface rubbed clean, and it is covered with paper and passed under a cylindrical press, the ink captured in the lines is transferred to the paper.

The first etching on record was that of the Swiss artist, Urs Graf, who printed from iron plates. Albrecht Dürer, though a consummate engraver, made only five etchings, and never really dominated the technique. That was left to later artists like the Italian Parmigianino and, of course, Rembrandt, perhaps the greatest etcher of all time.

Later adepts of acid etching were Tiepolo and Canaletto in Italy and, of course, Francisco Goya in Spain. The 20th century saw important bodies of work by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Georges Rouault.

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