How to Make a Monotype Print without a Press

What is Monotype Printing?

What is Monotype Printing?

A monotype is a hand-pulled art print, created with pigment alone (usually printmaking ink) applied to a smooth plate (usually metal, acrylic, Gelli, or glass) that is pressed against paper (usually printmaking paper) to transfer the still-wet 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 like incised lines, or adhered shapes, attached to the plate.

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

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

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

How to Make a Monotype Print

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 monotype printmaking project for you. Especially if you don’t want to carve with sharp tools, and if you don’t have a press, or a whole day to play with ink.

The demo of a monotype print that 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 to use as a plate, you can roll your ink out on a sheet of drafting film, aluminum foil, yupo paper, or a piece of glass from a photo frame.

If you use a sheet of glass, tape it down to a table with a narrow frame of masking tape or duck tape along the edges to keep it from sliding around and to protect your hands from the sharp edges.

Use what you have for tools… I’ve used the back of a paintbrush handle in the demo video below to sketch shapes into the wet printmaking ink. Use a chopstick, a pencil, a knitting needle, etc.

The reference photo for this demo was taken in the 1950’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it almost never rains. Use any photo you like, with simple shapes in light and dark. Avoid lots of detail in your first monotype. There will be plenty of opportunities to master details in your 2nd, 5th, and 30th monotype.

monotype printmaking supplies
Supplies to start monotype printing

Monotype Printing 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 monotype printing class is published!

rolling out printmaking ink on a plexiglass surface to make a print
Rolling printmaking ink on a plexiglass slab to make a monotype print. Since the print was started with the whole plate coated in ink, this is considered 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 hand-pressing thin Japanese Kozo paper to the wet ink, pulling the monotype print (You can watch this entire process in the Monotype Tutorial Video above)
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)
Add colored pencil to your monotype prints
You can add colored pencils, pastels, or oil crayons to your monotype.
add other media to your monotype print
Don’t be afraid to add additional shapes to your design after it’s printed. In this shot, I’m adding a potted plant to the empty corner.

Helpful Printmaking Posts from this Art blog

pulling a monotype print
Pilling a Drawing Transfer Monotype (also called a Trace Monotype) from a sheet of mylar coated with a thin layer of printmaking ink
Waiting for Rain 8.5 x 7.5 Dark Field Monotype Print

Tools for a Successful Monotype 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

Monotype Printing Supplies

Monotype Reference Books

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

Happy Making,

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, manipulated into a design on a smooth plate with paintbrushes, fingertips, or cotton swabs, etc. The artist adds, removes, and manipulates wet pigments – either a single color or a full spectrum of colors. The still-wet pigment is pressed against printmaking paper to transfer the design from the plate to the paper, resulting in a single print – a monotype.

A monoprint uses some form of repeatable mark-maker, either beneath the ink, or above it. Underneath the ink examples would be incised lines, or carved marks in the plate that would be repeated in each print. Above the ink, repeatable mark-making examples are stencils, stamps, organic materials like leaves and plants pressed into the ink, etc.

Repeatable mark-makers 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 above – or an incised, repeatable impression beneath the pigment. That is a monoprint.

dark field monotype printmaking

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
Estimated Cost: $35

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!


  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. rubber-gloves-for-printmaking
  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. stir your printmaking ink
  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 roll-out-printmaking-ink
  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 non-skid-for-printmaking
  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 blot-the-printmaking-ink
  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. blotted-ink-on-printmaking-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. beginning-a-dark-field-monotype
  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. drawing-bridge-for-monotype-printmaking
  10. Use your brushes or your gloved finger tip, or rolled paper towel, or cotton swabs 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. a dark field monotype of a puppy in process
  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. lay printmaking aper on your monotype plate
  12. Hold the paper steady with one hand, while rubbing the back of the paper with either the baren or a metal spoon. using a spoon to transfer a print to paper
  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. peek at your monotype print before pulling from the ink
  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. pulling a monotype print
  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). add other media to your monotype print


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.

Have you made one of these?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

6 thoughts on “How to Make a Monotype Print without a Press”

  1. Hi Belinda, I have watched a lot of your videos on YouTube, they are fantastic, thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am finding the biggest problem I have is how to smoothly roll out the medium on the plexiglass surface. It slips and slides and doesn’t actually roll. I have tried using Golden Open acrylics, watersoluble oils (Cobra) … i don’t have actual printing inks, is this the problem? Will this only work with oil based printing inks? Best regards Janice (Norfolk, UK)

    1. Hi Janice, The acrylics are looser than printmaking inks, and the cobra oils may be about the same viscosity, but I haven’t tried them, so I can’t say. First, does your brayer spin freely? Can you spin the rubber cylinder so it keeps going on it’s own?

    1. Hi Celia, Thanks for the feedback. The landscape with the artist was printed in a single color ink (black) with colored pencil added after the ink was dry. I hope you make one too!

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