A monotype is a printing process that typically produces only a single print. Other printing processes deliberately aim to reproduce the original, but with a monotype, each print is truly unique.
The print form of your monotype can comprise different materials. Usually a glass plate of the right size is an excellent way to apply your design and then print it from the plate onto paper.
Materials required for this tutorial
Making a monotype is not a big deal as such. The required funds for the equipment are quite affordable if you don’t already have them at home.
For your first experiments you don’t necessarily need special printing inks, but sooner or later you should think about investing in them.
- A small glass panel as printing block: Glass in picture frames that are no longer needed are perfect for this purpose. A panel of acrylic glass works just as well.
- A paint roller: You will need a small paint roller to completely connect the printing plate to the printing plate.
- A print medium: Absorbent, acid-free drawing paper is the best choice to absorb the thick layer of ink. The paper should be larger than the glass plate so that you can cut it to the right size.
- Preferably printing inks: Alternatively Oil or acrylic paints
Monotype Printing Step by Step Tutorial
Painting the monotype design on the glass
When you’ve gathered all your materials you’re ready to go. The application of paint is similar to that of a conventional painting. However, watercolorrs do not work with this method because they are too fluid and do not cover the surface sufficiently.
Paint your motif as accurately as you can on the glass plate. Of course you can use a template or let your imagination run free.
If you are using acrylic paint and the application of the paint is rather slow you should think about using a acrylic medium to delay the drying time.
Oil paint and printing ink on the other hand have a longer drying time, so you will have no problems with these kinds of paint.
Be careful at the beginning with very intricate structures of your motif. If you don’t use printing inks, delicate aspects of your image may be lost while printing.
Alignment of the print medium
Remember: The print medium is the object you want to print your image on. It is best to use very absorbent drawing paper.
When you are satisfied with the painted image you can start printing before the paint starts to dry. Depending on the subject you may want to cut the paper before printing to fit the size of the glass plate exactly. You can also leave the paper a little larger to have more space on all sides of the paper after printing.
Leave the glass plate with the image facing towards you and align the print medium in the centre. It is best to orientate yourself at the bottom of the glass until you find a position of the paper where the image is centered. Then slowly lower the paper while making sure that the paper is evenly spaced to the edges.
After initial contact with the ink, do not move the paper back and forth. Otherwise you risk smearing your beautiful picture.
Printing and rolling the image
Once the drawing paper is placed on the glass, do not move the paper horizontally. You should only press it vertically against the glass so that the paint can be applied over the entire surface and absorbed by the paper. Then use your paint roller to properly press the paper against the image.
Take a thin paint roller (without paint, of course) or a similar rolling object and roll it powerfully along the back of the paper. This way you press all parts of the printing process tightly together in order to ensure a uniform pressure.
Remember that your manual pressure with the paint roller mimics a printing press, which presses the ink receptor against the ink dispenser with great pressure.
Revealing the result of your Monotype printing
When you have pressed paper and glass together firmly enough and you are sure that the ink has transferred to the paper you can lift it carefully.
Getting a perfect print is not as easy as it might seem. It requires the right paper, ink, and amount of ink across the entire design. Too much ink would distort the design when pressing the paper, too little ink and you run the risk of not getting a consistent print.
With experience you will find the right amount of ink to accurately use the monotype printing to depict your motif of choice properly.
Individual lines and streaks of color should be painted a little more delicately than in a normal painting, as they become thicker during monotype printing.
Why print the monotype instead of painting directly on paper?
If you only get one usable print from the printing plate, why not paint the motif of the printing plate on paper right away. A valid point! Both methods produce unique pieces – originals – but the result is different.
If you remove the print medium from the printing plate, the bonding effects of the color create unpredictable structures in the image which make the print so special. This component of randomness is rather untypical for a print. If you place the print substrate on the plate, straighten it and press it a little bit, the final result will be distorted which can be quite different from the image you want to print.
Advanced monotype printing techniques
Admittedly, this tutorial was designed to be beginner-friendly. If you want to give the printing technique a little effort you should think about buying printing ink. It can be spread over a large area of the printing form and then covered with other fabrics or painted forms that will leave their marks on the print.
In this video, the artist explains a monotype in which she places a cheesecloth and a painted stencil on the black primed surface to print this motif: