Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How To Tuesday - How To Make A Monoprint

Monoprint means 'one print'. Although when we hear the word 'print' we expect there to be multiples, this technique produces a one off. There are many different ways of making a mono print but I'm going to show you the way I was taught while at art college. 

Here are some beautiful examples of the lovely marks and lines you can achieve with this technique.

What you will need. - 
Ink, you will need a thick sticky ink, most printmaking inks are good for this, either oil based or water based, I've used both in the past and they work equally well. If you want to buy your ink online I use a London based company called Intaglio Printmaker. You can download their catalogue here and if you phone them up they are very helpful.
Roller, a cheapy roller is fine for this.
A sheet of glass or perspex, in the past I've used glass from picture frames, perspex sheets, even a formica table top, but if you live near Ikea they sell nice thick glass (made to be used on top of small tables, I think), it's relatively cheap and good and strong and perfect for this. Unfortunately it is tinted, but it shouldn't matter for this purpose. 
Spoon, for getting the ink out of the tin! but if you have a squeezy tube obviously you wont need this.
A range of mark making tools, eg pencils, pens etc. 
Paper, a fairly thin paper gets the best results, I love using newsprint as it picks up the ink very well. In this example I'm using a 130gsm cotton rag paper, but experiment with whatever you have.

First of all dollop a small amount of ink on your glass/ perspex, then dip your roller into it and roll the ink on a clean piece of glass. When rolling make sure you lift the roller every so often so you're not just rolling the same bit again and again. This is not the layer of ink you will be working from, this is more like a recharge area.
Then you need to roll out the area of ink you will be working on. You want it nice and thin and even. Each time you need a bit more ink on your roller go back to your recharge area, not the dollop of ink, you need to keep the ink to a minimum.
(If you have too much ink your paper will just turn out black. If this does happen get a sheet of paper and place it onto the inked area, wipe over it with your hand to lift excess ink off. Do this a few times if it's very inky.)

You then place your paper on top of your rolled ink and draw on the back of it. Experiment to start with, with different types of pencil, pen, anything you can find. They all make slightly different marks.

Try making marks with your fingers, this leaves a lovely soft line, good for shading. Also remember if you're including any lettering you have to write backwards!

Turn over your paper to see the results. There is often lovely accidental marks in the background when using this technique, I think these are what make monoprints so charming.

I've now decided to draw a picture using different marks. 

First I draw in pencil

Then to achieve a soft greyish wing I rub my fingers over the area.

And ta da! A seagull! 

Do you see where I held the paper with my fingers? Be aware that any leaning on the paper will result in a mark, but you can also use this to your advantage, it's all part of the process!

To clean up use turps on the glass and roller for oil based ink and water for water based. If you're using water based ink you'll need to clean up after each use, but if you're using oil based you can leave it for a few days if you want to do more later.  Of course you can use different colours too. If you have any questions I'd be happy to try and answer them! 

Posted by Bridget 


  1. Great tutorial, well done Bridget. I love monprinting so much!! Drawing is my first love, so I was like a giddy school girl when I learned monoprinting.
    Another thing I like to do is have a couple of colours rolled out and swap the drawing between them. Black drawings with a touch of red were my favourite.

  2. i also remember this from school, and would LOVE to give it another shot! do you think you could print on fabric like this?

  3. I have a feeling if I attempted this I'd end up with one big black page! great tutorial Bridget!

    p.s all this talk of you're mum's cinnamon scones is making me hungry! ;D

  4. Wow - It's funny the things you forget. I'm sure I did this years ago and have a few of the tests and results somewhere around here. Thanks a million for reminding me. It was a fab How To with great pics and instructions. Well done.

  5. I'm glad you all enjoyed it!
    I'm sure you could do this on fabric, you might have to test different inks for it though, but I think I have seen it used for this.

    oooh yes, black with a touch of red would be lovely!

    Why don't we all have a meet up in my mum's restaurant and eat cinnamon scones!

  6. ohhh I love this - I'm going to give it a go!!!

  7. Great tutorial Bridget- and yep Sarah it works great on fabric too. I've used it on fabric for some of my bags. I normally use fabric paint on the glass and scrape out a design by wiping away bits of the paint with brushes or my finger, then place the fabric face down on the glass and press hard with a roller. Chris:)

  8. Hi Bridget. Just thought I should stop by and let you know that I have linked to your tutorial. I spent quite a while looking for one that was just right. Yours is fabulous. Very concise, with great pictures that demonstrate the text. Thank you for sharing. Penny.