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What is Monoprinting?

Monoprinting is a one-off fine art printing technique that uses a sheet of glass or Perspex to transfer a unique design onto a sheet of paper. No two monoprints are alike, and the design created can only be used once (‘mono’ = single).

Monoprinting printmaking techniques can include combining artistic methods and multimedia such as painting and drawing with lithography, etching or woodcut. Monoprints are unique, spontaneous and expressive, allowing more scope for abstract compositions and more detailed prints than other types of printing.

This ‘monoprinting step by step’ guide provides clear instructions on how to monoprint and includes a nifty checklist of all the tools and materials you will need for the monoprinting process. You can also find some interesting information by reading some recommended printmaking books found here.

Read the list below to see the basics of the monoprinting process and what is contained in this monoprinting guide to learn more about this traditional printmaking method.

Sustainable Printmaking Guide

What Materials Do You Need for Monoprinting?

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Luke Hickman

Author at Hickman Design

Luke Hickman is a printmaker and artist with over 15 years of experience. He studied at Norwich University, graduating with a BA (Hons) Fine Art, and has worked in both the commercial printing and digital marketing industries for over 7 years. Luke’s work revolves around the idea of creating art that can illustrate a story with topics covering war, politics and history.

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The Monoprinting Process Step by Step

Step 1 – Designing Your Monoprint

Sketch your design on paper until you are happy with it. You can then either scan it to make a copy to preserve your original design or use the original for the print (note this will probably ruin the original design; the very nature of monoprinting is single use!).

Tips for designing a good monoprint:

  • Keep your first design simple; you can experiment with more complex designs once you have mastered the technique
  • Bear in mind that when you trace your design it will be reversed
Lino Print Design Image

You can use a photograph for your design and print it off

Step 2 – Preparing Surface To Monoprint

It’s important to clean your sheet of glass/Perspex before applying any ink. Apply a small blob of ink to the sheet then roll it with a roller/wooden spoon until the ink achieves a velvety texture and makes a slightly sticky sound!

Tips to avoid making a mess:

  • Make sure your inked area is same size or slightly smaller than your chosen piece of paper to be printed on, so you don’t end up with ink on your work surface!

Monoprinting techniques/ideas:

  • Once you have applied ink to your sheet of glass/Perspex with the roller you can smudge the ink using a rag or your own fingerprints to create patterns
  • A ‘subtractive’ method can be applied where ink is removed from your inky palette before you transfer the print over; ink can be removed using items such as bubble wrap or cotton buds to create interesting textures
  • ‘Masking’ creates a blank space in your print and can be achieved by putting another material in between your inked sheet and the paper, such as mesh or flowers
  • You can also experiment with watercolour paints and wax crayons as well as the ink
  • Why not stitch your print onto a cushion cover or lampshade
  • If you created your monoprint on tissue paper, you could decoupage this onto furniture

Only Use Small Blob Of Ink

Ink Rolled Out

Step 3 – How to Monoprint

Lay your desired paper on top of the inked area and rub the back very lightly so that it is in contact with ink and does not move. Lay your scanned design or original sketched design on top of the paper. Carefully draw over the lines of your design; this will transfer it onto the paper.

Tips for printing your monoprint:

  • If you leave a little space around the edge of your paper you can tape the edges down, so it does not move
  • Try not put heavy pressure on the paper with your hands as it could smudge the ink
  • Use a lightweight paper for monoprinting to ensure your marks / lines are picked up

Lightly Lay Paper Onto Rolled Ink

Draw onto the paper which is on your inked surface, try not to put too much pressure on the paper with your hand.

Step 4 – Revealing Your Monoprint

Slowly and carefully peel back the printed paper to reveal your unique monoprint art! Keep your print away from an open window or any liquids that could be spilled and make sure you let the ink dry thoroughly. Now you know how to do monoprinting!

Peel Back Paper To Reveal Monoprint

Monoprinting & Oil Pastels

Monoprinting & Oil Pastel – Chechnya

Monoprinting & Oil Pastel

Negative Monoprints

Before you wash away the ink after creating your monoprint you can create another print with the left over ink that captures the negative space, this can be used to create some interesting prints which can also be worked with a variety of other materials such as water colour or pastels. Simply place another sheet of paper on top and gently rub the back with a roller or wooden spoon, this will print the negative image onto the paper. You can check out some examples of negative monoprints below. I would advise using a lightweight paper for this, heavier papers will make it harder to capture the details without smudging the ink.

Negative Monoprint Worked With Fine Pen To Bring Out Details

Step 5 – Clean Up

Hopefully you found the monoprinting process easy to follow and are proud of your very first monoprint art! Clean your cutting tools immediately after use to keep them in prime condition. If you have any queries about how to monoprint or need any troubleshooting help, please do contact me via the about page.

Washing after printing

Monoprinting History

The origins of monoprint art are unknown, however, Dutch painter Hercules Seghers is one of the earliest artists known to use monoprinting techniques in the 17th century. He created landscapes by combining line work with coloured inks and dyed paper. French artist Edgar Degas was responsible for a resurgence in the popularity of the technique in the 19th century; his work used rags, plates and his own fingers! Famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was also known to dabble in monoprinting.

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