What is a Monotype?

“mono”…meaning single or “one of a kind”
“type”…meaning impressed form or print

A monotype is a unique, printed impression produced by painting a picture or design on a plain surface, such as glass or metal and transferring it to another surface, such as paper.

Creating a Monotype

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First I start mixing my palette of colors. Here I'm using a non-toxic water based soy ink, however I also have worked with oil based Lithography inks.

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I am using Plexiglas plates to paint my image on. I have also used metal zinc plates. Here I have sketched out an idea on the plate with a sharpie pen on the back side. Sometimes I just "wing it" and jump right into a painting.

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I use a palette knife to "work my ink" and blend interesting color combinations.

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I use paint brushes to apply my ink, just like I do on a canvas, but other tools are handy such as brayer rollers, sticks, cardboard, cotton swabs, etc.

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When I am ready to print, I register my plate on the grid of the press bed, and carefully line up my pre-soaked paper over the painted plate. I really like using Rives BFK, a high quality French paper.

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After registering the plate, placing paper, and positioning the blankets, I crank the artwork through the press. This big beauty is a Takach, made in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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I peek at my artwork by lifting a corner. Sometimes I need to increase the press roller pressure and run it through again. This is my favorite point...the surprise reveal! An interesting fact: my image on the paper will always be the "backwards" image from what I painted on the plate.

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Another thing I consider after printing my image is the fact that there is some ink left on the plate. I often will use an ink "release agent" rolled onto the leftover ink on the plate and print it again. This is now a faint image of the original, and later I will go back and draw with colored pencils or paint to make a new entirely different version, which is an original as well.

Why bother when only a single impression can be obtained from each design?
Why not just paint the design directly onto paper in the first place?

Certain effects can be produced that cannot be duplicated in any other way. The effects can be subtle, varied and beautiful. The textural variety, surface quality and coloration are unique. This process allows for creative invention, surprises, spontaneity, and individual experimentation. The monotype process can be combined with other techniques and media, such as drawing, painting, etching, lithography, and collage. A monotype print is just as original and unique as a painting on canvas!

I use a couple of methods to achieve very different results. By working “positively”, I create images applying ink with brushes, rollers, fingers, toothbrushes, sticks, sponges and other tools. Many “color drops” can be utilized by printing a couple or more painted plates on top of each other. By working “negatively”, I first apply ink with a brayer roller to the plate surface, and then wipe away ink in areas using rags, sticks, cotton swabs, and other tools to show lights, tones and texture. I use Plexiglas or zinc plates, and after the image is created, I put the plate on a press bed and carefully place previously dampened paper (Rives BFK 100% rag- top quality) over the plate, careful to register both. By running the work through the press at moderate pressure, I then get the wonderful result that is a monotype!

I personally enjoy the anticipation that you won’t know how a print will turn out until you pull the paper off the plate. And that lack of control … the spontaneity and surprise … is what really excites me about the monotype process.