Belinda Del Pesco

How to Make a Monotype Print

Waiting for Rain 8.5 x 7.5 Dark Field Monotype Print

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 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 course.

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 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, or 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 masking tape or duck tape to keep it from sliding around and to cover the sharp edges.

Use what you have for tools… I’ve used the back of a paint brush handle in this demo video to sketch shapes into the wet printmaking ink. Use a chop stick, 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 a photo you like, with simple shapes in light and dark. Avoid lots of detail in your first monotype. There will be plenty of opportunity to master details in your 2nd, 5th and 30th 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 print. 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 (This is a dark field monotype, because we’re starting with an ink covered, and thereby dark field, at the beginning of the monotype process.)
pulling a monotype print without a press
After pressing paper to the wet ink, pulling the monotype print
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 pencil, 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

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 Printmaking 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 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.

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