trace-monotype painted with watercolor

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Petite Monotype Transfer Drawings

While making a video course, new artwork is created to demonstrate the process so you can see all the steps. This monotype transfer drawing portrait of a sleeping child was a test print for a course on Monotype Printmaking I’m filming and editing in my studio this spring. (If you’re interested in a notification when the course is launched, you can sign up here.)

If you’re unfamiliar with transfer drawing monotypes, there are process photos below. There is also a great little video from the Art Institute of Chicago demonstrating Gauguin’s process for these prints.

The course footage for the tiny print above (and two others) was lost when my camera battery died. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Still shots taken with my cell phone will have to do for this post. Filming art process when you’re a painter and not a film maker can be a bit of a cactus patch. But I’m working on it.

You can peruse the archive on this site to see more examples of monotype transfer drawings here and here. And the basics for how to make a dark field monotype with no press are here.

Caligo Safe Wash blue black etching ink (I *love* this ink!) rolled out in a thin layer on drafting film to make a series of transfer drawing monotypes.
transfer drawing monotype of a sleeping child
A transfer drawing monotype printed on beautiful Arnhem 1618 cotton paper with Caligo Safewash blue-black etching ink
Adding Winsor Newton and Graham watercolor to the transfer drawing
Letting the watercolor dry on the paper to check values/darks and lights in the image
Pendulum Dream 4×4 Transfer Drawing Monotype with Watercolor
This brief video by The Art Institute of Chicago demonstrates Gauguin’s process for creating monotype transfer drawings.

Printmaking Nicknames

If you know of some inspiring or informative transfer drawing or monotype resources online, please share the links in the comments. Folks call this form of printmaking monotype, monoprint, monoprinting, trace monotype and transfer drawing print, etc., so the variation in nomenclature disperses the resources far and wide. And that doesn’t include all the foreign language terms associated with the process. Let’s help each other find the good stuff so we can collectively add details about this fun process to our art studio practices.

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


P.S. If you use Instagram to share your work or process online, Tailwind published a nice review of their top five recommended photo editing apps to use on your images here.

cat sleeping in an art studio
Struggling to get motivated in the art studio? Here are six tips to help you paint more often.

Art Quote

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Rose Milligan
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

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