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How to Make a Monotype Print

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I promised Arnold Grummer several years ago I would explain how I used his wonderful paper press to make a monotype print. A monotype is a one of a kind, a unique piece of artwork. It is the simplest form of printmaking, requiring only pigments, a surface to apply them, paper and some form of press. In this project I used Chinese and Japanese watercolors to paint on the plate and a paper press to make the print. Here is a step by step explanation of how I did it:


8 x 10 Lexan polycarbonate or plexiglas (purchased at Home Depot)
220 grit sandpaper
Watercolor paper 140 lb Hot press
Yasutomo's Chinese (CP12) and Japanese watercolors (WC220)
watercolor brushes
dark gray watercolor pencil
Arnold Grummer's Standard Paper Press

Step 1. Prepare the painting/printing plate by sanding the polycarbonate sheet on one side only in a circular motion until it looks frosted. Be sure to roughen all the areas of the plate as this will make the paint adhere to the surface. Be sure not to get any oils from your fingers on the plate because the pigments won't adhere well. Wash the surface with dish washing liquid and let dry.

Step 2. Draw the image onto the frosted side of the plate with a gray watercolor pencil. I traced an earlier drawing of mine but you can use any image you like to create your design.

Step 3. Paint the frosted side of the plate in any style you choose using the watercolors. You can use a drawing underneath the plate as a guideline or you can paint an abstract design. Use a watercolor pencil for any lines then paint with the Chinese and Japanese watercolors. Let the paint dry before pulling the print.

mononprint painted on plexiglass

Step 4. Soak your watercolor paper in a basin of water for about 10 minutes.  Remove the paper from the basin and blot it with a clean towel. The paper should have a slight shine but not dripping wet.


Step 5. Lay the paper down on the plate. Start at one and and be careful to line it up with your marks. Do not move the paper once it is on the plate.

Step 6. Lay a sheet of wax paper over the paper and plate and put it into the press and tighten it down for a minute or two. If you don't have a press, use a rolling pin or brayer and roll it over the plate with even pressure starting at the center and working to the edges.

Step 7. Remove the plate from the press and carefully lift the watercolor paper.

Step 8. While everything is still wet, touch up areas with a brush and water. Bring out the dark areas using darker colors.

Step 9. Bring out highlights and details with white until the desired look is achieved. What I like about this process is the texture you can't get using traditional painting. The press creates an embossed edge which finishes it nicely. 

Step 10. Sign your artwork with a chop, stamp or pencil and frame under glass.

Monoprint by Karen Elaine 2012

Last Updated ( Monday, 01 October 2012 17:25 )