What is Monoprinting in Art and why you need to try it out now

What is Monoprinting in art? Monoprinting in art is a process of making one-off prints as part of your artwork. It’s what you do when you want to make an original drawing using ink or paint and then print it as part of the same artmaking process.

This is not to be confused with making art prints or limited edition prints or lithographic printing which are all different methods of printing in art.

The word “monoprint” means “to make a one-off print” and refers to the most direct and simple form of printing. Monoprints are created by pressing ink onto paper with textured surfaces such as rosin paper, rice paper, glass, metals, pumice stone or a clay plate which creates patterns in the design that can be seen only on the surface of the paper where it was applied.

It is an easy and fun printing process that can be enjoyed by professional artists, weekend artists and even a great introduction to printing for children.

What is the process of Monoprinting?

The process of monoprinting can be one of two methods which I will go through below.

Method 1 of monoprinting

  1. For the first technique, a smooth surface, such as a big piece of glass or a smooth metal plate, is required.
  2. Use a grease-based substance such as printer’s ink or oil paint to draw on this surface.
  3. Cover it with a piece of paper and roll it with a hand roller.
  4. The result is a mirror image of your drawing on the glass.
  5. If the result is etched on an etching plate and the drawing medium is ink, you may pass it through a printing press.

Method 2 of monoprinting

This second method works like a carbon copy (anyone born before 2000 won’t know what this is).

  1. Cover a piece of paper with printer’s ink.
  2. Place the paper ink side down on top of another piece of paper.
  3. Draw on the back of the first piece of paper.
  4. When you peel the two apart, the transferred drawing will appear on your other paper.

What is needed to monoprint?

In order to make a monoprint in art you will need the following supplies:

Monotype ink or paints – if you can’t find printing ink then you can also use oil paint, acrylic paints or tempera, usually something that can be quite thick and does not dry too fast. I would not recommend watercolor or gouache paint as they are too thin, watery or dry too quickly.

monoprinting inks

Paper – you can use any type of paper that works best for what you are looking to create, but it is good idea to test the different types before starting your monoprinting project.

printmaking paper

Tools for creating line drawings – these could range from a pencil, pen, marker etc depending on what kind of look & feel you want in your work.

tools to etch lines

Brayer – A brayer is a hand tool used in printing and printmaking to break up and “rub out” ink. If you don’t have a brayer, try a rolling pin or the back of a large spoon.

a brayer

Surface – This can be any flat and clean glass surface, metal plate or even a mirror.

What is the best paper for Monoprinting?

Printmaking Paper works best for monoprinting and I will explain why below but if you can’t get your hands on printmaking paper or it is out of your price range then experiment with watercolor paper and any paper that can handle ink or wet paints. Stay away from shiny papers.

The ability to withstand soaking and absorb a lot of ink, often with several passes through a press, without crumbling or deforming is one of the hallmarks of excellent printmaking paper.

The paper usually used in small printmaking is usually 100% cotton, which is known as archival fiber. 

Japanese printmaking paper is usually made from bamboo, kozo (mulberry bark), gampi or hemp. For stability or to produce various finishes, these fibers are generally combined with varying amounts of wood pulp.

Museum-quality watercolor papers tend to work quite well but any medium will do if it can handle toner or ink without bleeding.

Can you do monoprint with acrylic paint?

Yes! You can actually use almost any liquid or paste based mediums on a metal surface as long as they don’t dry quickly and won’t damage the original image underneath. So you can use acrylic paint, oil paint or tempera.

How does one make a Monoprint on canvas?

There are two ways to go about this: either transfer an image onto the canvas before painting over it (recommended), or produce the design directly by applying paint in random patches which makes up your drawing instead of drawing each line individually like traditional pencil sketches would require.

Can you monoprint on fabric?

Yes, you can use natural fabrics for monoprinting. Many artists use monoprinting on silk or cotton to make one-off scarfs or shirts.

The result can appear to be quite similar to screen printing which leads me into additive monoprinting which allows you to achieve similar results to screen printing by layering.

What is additive Monoprinting?

Additive monoprinting is when prints made by adding layers one on top of another (usually in single colors).

They are differentiated from subtractive monoprints because they do not use any tools to scrape away parts of previous drawings; instead each layer builds up over what was previously there and becomes part of the whole picture.

This style allows for very smooth gradients that take several different color plates working together at once which isn’t possible if scraping off some areas as well.

Is monoprinting the same as monotype?

No, monoprinting is what we just talked about and what you will learn on this page. Monotype printing uses a unique type of paper or plate that can be printed from only once while the ink remains wet.

This allows for prints with very fluid lines and textures but means they do not look identical to each other because no two plates are alike.

What artists use Monoprints?

The list of artists who use or used monoprinting is quite extensive but here are some great examples: Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas and many more.

There are many examples of modern-day artists who have used monoprints and monotypes in their work: Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg all made large series of monoprints and monotypes which allowed them to print multiple versions quickly.

Bonus Fun Twist on Monoprinting – Video

how to create monoprinting video

What is Monoprinting in Art? – Wrap up

I hope this post answers quite simply “What is monoprinting in art?”. Monoprints are a great way for artists to experiment with different textures and effects, while always having the option of making more prints when desired.

They are quick and easy to make and do not require a lot of specialized equipment or materials.

If you find that you love the process of making monoprints then I suggest experimenting with what you have around you for some unique effects or purchasing some of the commercially available tools.

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