Printmaking is a mechanical process that allow for an image or words to be transferred from one surface to another. This process allows for mass production and we see the results of this process all around us in our daily lives. Printmaking can be found on our food packages, street signs, advertisements and even on our clothes! Printmaking allows for multiple copies to be made, each one looking exactly the same, but there is a special kind of printmaking, one that is a little bit different, in that each print made, becomes an original print. This kind of printmaking is called mono-printing.
Printmaking has a rich history. It began in the 15th century with images being printed from carved wood and metal. These carved surfaces are called printing plates and the image they produce is called a print. Not long after the first prints were made, movable type was introduced and the first printed books were born. The art of printmaking made the sharing and spreading of knowledge and information easy and fast and it didn’t take long for printmaking to revolutionize the way art was made too! Hand written books were obsolete as were original drawings in those books, both replaced by printmaking.
There are four main types of printing. They are relief, intaglio, planographic and stencil. Relief printing works the same as a rubber stamp. Artists carve away from their printing plate, all of the pieces they don’t want to show up in their print, leaving the remaining bits as a raised surface that is then coated with paint or ink and then pressed onto another surface, such as paper. Intaglio printing is the opposite of relief printing because in this kind of printing the artist carves the image they want to print into the surface of their printing plate. Then the printing plate is coated with paint or ink and wiped clean. The ink or paint remains in the carved lines on the printing plate and these lines are what appear in the printed image once the printing plate is pressed onto another surface. Planographic printing is a way of printing that involves making a printing plate without carving or etching, but rather relying on the property that water and oil resist one another. In addition this method of making a printing plate relies on chemicals to erode and seal the surface of the plate to create the image to be printed. Once the printing plate is made, though, the printing process is the same in that the printing plate is pressed onto another surface to print the image. Stencil printing is a printing process where ink or paint is pressed through a printing plate that has open spaces where the image is to be printed and blocked areas that don’t allow the paint or ink to pass through.
Unlike the four main types of printing which are intended to create multiple copies of an image,
is a unique way of printmaking because only one print is made each time. Students at Gogh Arts have enjoyed working with a few different kinds of mono-printing over the years and I’d like to share with you a few of the techniques and processes we’ve used.
One way to make a monoprint is to do a textured rubbing. For this activity you will need to collect some objects that have good texture but that are also fairly thin, such as leaves, coins and keys. You can use crayons, chalk, pencils or colored pencils for this activity and each one gives a unique visual quality so I recommend trying a few different media to find your favorite. All you do is place the textured object beneath a piece of paper and then using your crayon or pencil, gently rub across the surface of the paper that is covering the textured object and like magic, the object appears on your paper! It’s important to rub gently during this process and holding your crayon, pencil or chalk flat is best. You want to use the wide side, not the point of your coloring stick.
Another fun way to make a monoprint is to paint different objects and then press them onto paper in the same way that you would use a rubber stamp. Fruit, vegetables, leaves and flowers make great stampers and you can even carve fruits and vegetables to make your own designs!
This next technique involves paint as well, but with this method you will be creating a negative space print, meaning that the lines you draw will not be printed. You can use any flat surface that you don’t mind getting paint on like a baking sheet, non porous countertop or cutting board, even a plate could work. Begin by painting the surface any color you want or any combination of colors. Next, use a cotton swab to draw a picture in the paint. As you do this you will be removing paint leaving a negative space outline of your drawing. Then, using a piece of paper you will cover your painting and press it onto your paper, and when you lift it off you will have a beautiful monoprint!