How to Make a Monotype

Waiting for Rain 8.5 x 7.5 Dark Field Monotype

What is Monotype Printmaking?

What is a Monotype Print?

A monotype is a hand-pulled art print, created with pigment alone (usually printmaking ink) on a smooth plate (usually metal, acrylic or glass) that is pressed against paper (usually printmaking paper) to transfer the pigments from the plate to the paper.

The root word ‘mono” means one, because you get a single print. This printmaking method results in a single, printed, original art image.

Monotypes are not editionable the way relief or intaglio prints are. There are no repeatable mark-making elements in the plate – like incised lines, or adhered shapes.

There are no repeatable mark-making elements laid in the ink, such as stencils, or organic materials like leaves, etc.

The design of a monotype is made with manipulated pigments alone, and therefore it is considered a very painterly form of singular image printmaking. (See resources for details to make a monotype below.)

online course teaching an intro to dark field monotype
Dark Field Monotypes do not require a press, or lots of art supplies. Learn more about making them with a few basic supplies in this introductory course.

How to Make a Monotype

Here is a monotype printmaking tutorial video on my youtube channel. The process outlined in these photos – with the resulting print above – is a perfect example of a first printmaking project for you, if you don’t have a press, or a whole day to play with ink.

The demo you see in this post is a single color of ink rolled out directly on a sheet of plexiglass. If you don’t have a sheet of plexiglass, you can roll your ink out on a sheet of drafting film, or yupo paper, or a piece of glass from a photo frame, taped down to a table with masking tape or duck tape to cover the sharp edges.

The back of a paint brush handle is used in this demo to sketch shapes into the wet printmaking ink.

The reference photo for this demo was taken in the 1950’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it almost never rains. Use a photo you like, with simple shapes in light and dark. Avoid lots of detail in your first monotype.

monotype printmaking supplies
Supplies to start monotype printmaking

Monotype Printmaking Demonstration Videos

You can watch the video below, or click here to watch it directly on my channel. There are five other tutorials posted there, so have a look if you think you’d like to experiment with this painterly form of printmaking.

And if you’d like to take my online course on monotype printmaking, sign up here to be notified as soon as the course is published!

rolling out printmaking ink on a plexiglass surface to make a print
Rolling printmaking ink on a glass slab to make a monotype. Since the print is started with the whole plate coated in ink, this is considered a “dark field”, so it’s a Dark Field Monotype.
dark field monotype in process
Using cotton swabs to remove ink in a subtractive process
pulling a monotype print without a press
After pressing paper to the wet ink, pulling the monotype
hanging a print to dry printmaking ink can be accomplished with a wooden clothespin
Waiting for the ink to dry on a monotype so I can add colored pencil (or any other media)

Helpful Printmaking Posts from this art blog

Tools for a Successful Printmaking Session


Monotyping Tutorial Videos

A dark field monotype of a grassy meadow with hills in the background and an artist working on her easel in the tall grasses, with a row of colored pencils next to the print
Another dark field monotype, with colored pencil

Printmaking Supplies

Monotype Reference Books

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next studio post!

Happy Making,
Belinda

P.S. You can sign up here to subscribe and get each new art post from this studio via email as soon as it’s published.

P.P.S. You can join the Monotype Printmaking Group on Facebook, and share your work there for feedback!

dark field monotype of a girl seated in front of a window, painted with watercolor
Dark Field Monotype with watercolor: Window Seat (sold)

What is the Difference Between a Monotype and a Monoprint?

A monotype uses pigments alone on a smooth plate. The artist manipulates the pigments – either all one color, or a full spectrum of colors – to be arranged and then pressed against paper to transfer the design from the plate to the printmaking paper.

A monoprint uses some form or repeatable mark-maker, like a stencil, or incised lines, or carved marks in the plate, or materials pressed into the pigment, like leaves, stamps or templates. The pigments can still be manipulated in a way that makes each print unique, as with a monotype, but there is some form of repeatable shape-maker impressed into the pigment from beneath, or on top of the pigment.

How to Make a Monotype Print

How to Make a Monotype Print

Yield: Beautiful Monotype Prints
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

If you've ever wondered how to make a dark field monotype print, you've come to the right place! Here are step by step monotype process photos, videos, and a supply list with links to the items you'll need to get started.

You don't need a press, or any fancy printmaking equipment.

And if you learn best by watching a demonstration, here is a list of monotyping tutorial videos that cover dark field and light field monotype, as well as trace monotype printmaking demos.

With a little space cleared on a kitchen table, a few supplies, and some reference photos, you'll be making monotype prints in no time at all! Happy Printing!

Instructions

  1. Prepare a flat, clear surface to work on by covering it with newspapers. Gather all supplies close at hand, and put on your apron and rubber gloves.
  2. Tape down your ink slab.
  3. Stir your printmaking ink until it's smooth and mixed well. Put a dollop of ink on the slab about the size of a cashew nut.
  4. Use your brayer to roll the ink out on the slab until it's evenly covering the brayer, and the slab, and you hear the ink "hiss" as you roll back and forth
  5. Put a piece of non skid under your plexiglass printmaking plate (not necessary if you're printing from a gelli plate) and begin coating your plexiglass with a smooth, even coat of ink
  6. When the plate is completely covered, if the ink appears loose, shiny or thick, lay a piece of newsprint on the plate, and very gently, with light pressure, smooth it with your hand as though you were smoothing a wrinkle from a bed sheet.
  7. Peel the newsprint from the inked plate and discard it. Now that your ink has been blotted, it should be less shiny, and a bit thinner on the plate.
  8. Pull out a reference photo, and without touching the inked plate with your hand, begin drawing into the ink with your rubber tipped tool, and cotton swabs.
  9. If you need to rest your wrist while drawing, slide your drawing bridge over your ink plate so you can rest your hand on it above the ink.
  10. Use your brushes to feather halftones in your design. You can also use them to add more ink by dipping in the ink slab and adding darks to your design.
  11. When your design is ready to print, pull a sheet of printmaking paper from the package or pad, and with your spray bottle, lightly spritz the side you'll be printing on. Blot with a paper towel, and lay the damp side down on your inked and designed monotype.
  12. Hold the paper steady with one hand, while rubbing the back of the paper with either the baren or the metal spoon.
  13. Keep the paper in place with a firm hand, and peel up a corner to see how your ink is transferring to the paper. If it looks too light, or mottled, apply more pressure with the spoon in circular motions.
  14. When you feel like you've transferred enough ink from the plate to the paper, pull your print, and take delight in your beautiful monotype.
  15. After the ink is dry, feel free to add color to the print with colored pencil, pastels, or watercolor (provided you didn't use re-wetting ink, like Speedball).

Notes

If you make a mistake on a portion of your plate while you're designing and clearing ink, re-roll your ink, and re-blot if necessary. The inks (if you're using akua) stay wet for a very long time, until they are pressed to paper, so take your time, and get the hang of this painterly printmaking process.

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