Learn Printmaking

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"What Is A Print? - Good information from the Museum of Modern Art

Learn Printmaking!

It is a fun and rewarding skill to learn. Most significantly, learning printmaking teaches us how to see in reverse. When the printing plate is inked and paper pressed down on it the image that is transferred is the reverse of what is on the plate. It will appear quite different from what the student thought it would be when you made the plate. Many times the image result is a happy surprise, even better than what the student thought would come from the plate. Sometimes, however, the image can look awkward or unbalanced because we tend to read and see things from left to right. In the transfer of the image (printing) the "left" of the image becomes the "right" and the "right" becomes the "left." Adjustments and changes have to be made to the printing plate to correct the unbalance and awkwardness.

What happens with mono-printing?

As the name describes, this is a one-time printing method--only one print is made from the print source (plate). In this case, the source may simply asmooth surface like a plate of glass or plexiglas upon which a painting is done using water-based paints like temperas, printing inks or acrylic paints.

When the painting is completed, paper is pressed down on the painted surface and pulled away. Again, the same surprise factor is there and it can be either awkward/unbalanced or a joyful result. Mono-print is a vigorous, fun activity, especially for children. There is no carving into material (as there is with wood block or linoleum block) so the process is much easier for a child. The painting can be done on any smooth surface and produces exciting and often impressive results.

What happens with multi-printing?

First a textured collage printing plate is created by gluing down various textural materials like sandpaper, fabric, seeds, string, etc. When the glue is dry, the plate is sprayed with shellac. When dry, this plate is painted with many colors and paper pressed down on its surface. Care should be given to pressing the paper into the textures so that a detailed imprint can be produced. Good quality sketch book paper holds up well for this process.

Learn Printmaking Basics

introduces the student to mono-printing and multi-printing. The materials used in these six lessons are inexpensive and the cleaning up is easy. Mono printing and multi printing are both good exercises for later introduction to process like wood block, linoleum, etching, engraving and lithography.

Beginning Printmaking Lessons Supplies--What you will need for these lessons

A "beginner" set of of acrylic paints: or water soluable printing inks.

An assortment of various sizes of synthetic bristle brushes

A piece of glass or plexiglas, approximately 9" x 12" in size.

Paper towels

Copy paper (twenty sheets or so.)

A good quality sketch book, at least 50 pages.

A Plastic (2 cup size) water container.

Six pieces of card board or mat board, approximately 7" x 7" in size.

A collection of materials for texture: sandpaper, seeds, beans, lace, fabric, nylon or metal. screen, straws, grasses, leaves, sand, cardboard pieces, and any other textural items you might find of interest!

String or twine

A pencil

A paper palette

Elmer's glue

Most of these materials can be easily purchased online by clicking on the Amazon logos below:

Lesson One: Making a Monoprint"

Lay out the following materials on a table protected by newspapers: Your printing plate (glass, plexiglas or sheet of rigid plastic,) your paper palette, paints, brushes, water container, sketch book, copy paper and paper towels. Put quarter-size dabs of each color on the paper palette.

With a brush, take up some paints and paint on the smooth surface. Use a little of each color, blending some of the colors together. Do you see an image of something? If you do, try emphasizing it with a darker color. Add some detail to it--if you see a face, add eyes or a mouth, whatever you think is needed to make it more complete. Perhaps you are making a design of various shapes. Colors blend easily on the smooth surface, so be careful to not blend them so much that it all becomes muddy.

Paint can be removed with a paper towel if you need adjust your painting. You can also add lines by drawing into the paint with a pencil. Remember, the images will look different from what you are putting down now anyway. Just take a few minutes for your painting--it is important to have your painting wet for printing. If you take too much time, the paint will dry and you will not be able to print.

When you think it is completed, take a sheet of sketch book paper and press down on your painting. Smooth the paper over all of where you have painting. Work quickly here--again, if the paint dries, the paper will stick and that is a mess!

Now carefully lift the paper off the painted surface and lay it flat on the table. Wow! How about that! Did you expect it to look that way? Does it still look like the image you wanted?

Try another (we're just warming up!) Clean your brush in water, then take a little water in your cleaned brush and put it on the surface of your printing plate-- Then wipe the surface clean with a paper towel. Make sure all of the paint is off and the plate is clean. Now you are ready for your next mono-print. Paint again on the surface. Look for an image to develop, but if you don't see one, don't worry! Do a design or play with shapes!

Your print will be awesome, anyway! This time use bright colors and don't blend them so much. Keep the yellow, blue and red separate and add just a little white. Now take a pencil and scratch into the paint in places. This will give your work texture. Do a drawing, or a squiggle, or a series of lines or whatever. Now press the paper down on the surface and lift it off. Magic! Awesome, yes? Printing is fun!

Lesson Two: Make A Monoprint--Two and Three Printings

Now you have learned a bit about printing and discovered that it is fun! This time you are going to use your smooth surface plate again but this time you are going to draw and make two prints in one! Put only one color out on your plate palette. Pick up some color with your brush and put it down on the smooth surface plate, but just make a line, not an area of color. You can make any kind of lines you want, squiggly, straight, circles, dots--maybe you want to use all of those.

When you feel you are done, press a sheet of sketch book paper on what you have painted. Lift it off and look. Well! Amazing!

Now clean the smooth surface plate with a little clean water from your brush and wipe it with a paper towel. Now do another painting with your brush, using different colors. What kinds of lines are you going to use this time? When you think you have finished, take the SAME paper you just printed on and press it down on the surface. Lift it off. Who could have guessed what a glorious thing was happening?

Repeat the process once more, using another color and the same paper you just printed on. Your result will be an awesome configuration of three different paintings turned into one!

Step back and look at it. Can you see that, with practice, you could actually visualize how three separate drawings might come together? Say, if you did the profile of a face for the first printing, then colored in the face for the second and for the third print, filled in the background. Yes, if you practice you can do it!

Lesson Three: Make A Collagraph Plate for Multi-Printing

You have collected a lot of interesting textural items: seeds, sandpaper, small twigs, grasses, lace, etc. Take a piece of cardboard and begin to glue some of the items onto the cardboard. Think about what patterns, designs or images you would like to use and imagine how the textures will print.

When you are finished, let the glue dry (this may take several hours.) When the collagraph plate is dry, spray it with the shellac spray. Don't forget to ventilate when doing this. Several applications of shellac work best. Spray the entire area, making sure everything is covered. Let the shellac dry thoroughly (this should take only a few minutes.)

When your plate is dry, you are ready to print! Put some colors on your palette, mix several different colors and start painting your collagraph plate. Cover the entire textured surface and work the paint into all the crevices and textures. Remember to work quickly to keep the paint wet and use enough paint so it doesn't dry right away....

When you have finished painting, press a sheet of sketch book paper on the plate. Use a sheet of copy paper on top of the sketch book paper to make it smooth. Press down and rub, making sure all of the textures n the collagraph transfer to the sketch book paper.

Don't rub so hard that you perforate the paper! Now, lift the paper off. Wow! Surprised? In awe? Printing is amazing. Go ahead, paint the plate again and print again using different colors each time. How was the result different. You have in front of you a technique of limitless duplication. If you are inspired try this lesson again.

Basic Printmaking-making a second collagraph plate

Printing A Collagraph Plate

Printing A Collagraph Plate2

Lesson Four: Do A String Drawing Print

Let string do your drawing! On another piece of cardboard, take string and "draw" with it. You don't have to make an image, unless you want to. You can make a design or a pattern.

A good way to go about this is to do it in small sections, laying an inch or two of string down and then gluing it down on the cardboard. Another method is to cover the cardboard with glue (you can put a small spot of glue on an then brush it out to cover the cardboard) and then manipulate the string. When you are finished, let it dry then spray with shellac. Make sure the shellac is dry before you print.

Paint the twine collagraph plate whatever way you want. Just make sure everything on the surface is covered and use enough paint so it doesn't dry right away. You can emphasize the pattern you have created by making everything one color or using lots of colors.

Press the sketch book paper down on the surface,putting the copy paper over it to make rubbing easier. Rub gently around all of the string shapes-- then lift the papers off. Are you beginning to see how things may look in reverse? Is your drawing with string more exciting and interesting than a drawing you would do with a pen or pencil? Often, that is the case. Like what you did? Go ahead and print again (and again!) Experiment with different colors.

Lesson Five: Make A Collagraph Image

On a piece of cardboard, with a pencil, do a simple drawing--a face, a house, a dog, a car. It doesn't have to be like Rembrandt--just do the best simple drawing you can do, using a few lines.

Now you are going to add some textural elements to emphasize the drawing. For example, if it is a face, perhaps the shape of the face could be out of sandpaper, grass for the hair, buttons or macaroni for the eyes. Try to choose textures that would explain your drawing, emphasizing the various features. Cover the entire cardboard with some kind of texture, cutting or tearing the material to fit the areas that you want to cover.

Glue everything down well and let it dry, then spray with shellac. When you paint it, use colors that would emphasize the configurations. For instance, if you have done a car, you may want to paint the body red and the road gray. Again, keep it simple.

In this lesson, you are basically using everything you have learned so far in Basic Printmaking, working towards creating an image.

Print the plate on your sketch book paper. Did it turn out the way you wanted? Are you pleased? What could you do to make the print better? Experiment! Print again.


Lesson Six: Make a solid background collagraph print

First, paint on your smooth surface plexiglass plate. Cover the entire surface. What you paint will be the background for another print that you will make--so keep the colors simple--maybe just one or two colors and make a solid color area. Be sure to use enough paint so that it stays wet for printing.

Put a sheet of sketch book paper down on the plate you have painted, then a piece of copy paper to help you rub the plate. When you lift off the paper you should have basically a block of solid color. This will be the background for your next printing. Do several solid prints (as many as you want!)

When you are finished, clean the plexiglass plate with water, dry it with paper towels and set it aside.

Now, on a piece of card board, glue down textured items. If you liked the last lesson and want to draw something first, then lay the textures over it, that's fine. Use twine also, in addition to other items. If you'd rather just glue things down to see what will happen, that's fine, too.

Keep in mind that this plate will be printed on the one you just did. How will a solid color background affect this plate? What colors can you use to complement the background? When the shellac is dry, paint the collagraph plate, using colors that will stand out on the background print you have done.

Now take your solid background print and, face down, press it down on the textured/shellaced plate. Cover with copy paper to help you rub the plate. Work the paper into all of the detail as much as you can, but work carefully, so as not to press too hard or tear the paper. Now lift it off. Stand back and look at it. What do you think? The thrill of printing (have you found out?) is the unpredictability of it. There is only so much you can control, which may be a bit unnerving, but almost always, you have to admit, the results are exciting and inspiring!

This technique (printing a solid background, then print a more detailed image on the background print) can lead you to other exciting ways of printing with linoleum blocks, wood blocks, etchings, engravings and lithographs! You are on your way. You are grasping the basics of printing and your skills are developing. Keep up the good work!

Real Feedback


Hi Lois, thought I would send you a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate your YouTube videos. I found you last December when I purchased a Breville smart oven. I'd never really used a toaster oven for anything other than toast and since finding you I've been cooking like crazy! My husband thinks that's wonderful. Also I introduced my daughter to your art lessons and she is delighted, especially with the stencil one of the fishes! You encourage people of all skill levels to feel less intimidated by the thought of actually 'doing' a painting! Anyway, just saying thank you and to let you know how much we enjoy Charlie as well. Kindest regards, Carol

Hello Lois. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn hoy to draw and paint in diferentes styles and techniques. I just started and I've never had taken any classes til now with your tutorial. I really worldwide appreciate your comments about my still life exercise. I specially have problems with shading the table and painting the wood graining (as you can se in the picture) and also the table cloth. The melon sas difficult too, I feel something is missing there too . (Some things in the picture I didn't want them to apear in my painting) I'm starting to work with the landscape. As son as I have ir done I'll send you the picture. Best regards and thank you again.

Andrea Berkefeld (from México)

We did some printmaking at summer camp and I loved it! I found your website and me and my friend, Jen are making greeting cards for fund raising at school. thanks,

Tiffany Hodges

The origins of printmaking - Wikipedia

Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a 'print'. Each piece produced is not a copy but considered an original since it is not a reproduction of another work of art and is technically (more correctly) known as an 'impression'. Printmaking (other than monotyping) is not chosen only for its ability to produce multiple copies, but rather for the unique qualities that each of the printmaking processes lends itself to.

Prints are created by transferring ink from a matrix or through a prepared screen to a sheet of paper or other material. Common types of matrices include: metal plates, usually copper or zinc, or polymer plates for engraving or etching; stone, aluminum, or polymer for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts and wood engravings; and linoleum for linocuts. Screens made of silk or synthetic fabrics are used for the screenprinting process. Other types of matrix substrates and related processes are discussed below.

Multiple impressions printed from the same matrix form an edition. Since the late 19th century, artists have generally signed individual impressions from an edition and often number the impressions to form a limited edition. Prints may also be printed in book form, such as illustrated books or artist's books.

printmaking, print, collagraph

Buddhist-pics collagraph

Collagraph by Dina Petrillo

Collagraph by Suzanne Clark