Monotype Printmaking

Held on the 2 July 2011

Facilitator: Niall Bingham

Co ordinator: Mandy Johnston


Monotype printmaking is very good for freeing the mind when grappling with other more familiar mediums.  It allows for  spontaneity and experimentation.

Preparing the plate:

Perspex:  1.5 mm thick – Bevel the edges to a 45 degree angle with a fine metal file, avoid using the courser variety of files.

Rolling out ink:

Tape your Perspex to a surface – here made of glass- with small tubes of tape on the back of the Plate.

Using a spatula, take some ink form the tub and work it to a smooth, malleable, syrup like consistency. Spread the ink out slightly, making sure the width of the roller is taken into consideration.

Using a medium hard rubber roller ‘dip’ the roller in this thick ink layer then roll the ink out onto the glass surface until you get a velvety, smooth, even layer that replicates (visually) an orange skin.  At this point the roller will be making a noticeable swishing sound as the ink resists its movement across the slab.

Apply ink to plate:

Transfer this ink onto the Perspex plate, layer by layer, rolling in various directions until you have a smooth, velvety textured surface of ink. You can lift up your Perspex to the light to see if the layer is even, if light is visible through the inky layer, you may need to apply more ink. You can choose at this stage how thick/ dark you would like the ink.

Remove the ink as desired:

Using your fingers, fabric, toothpicks, turpentine and any textured tool or material you can begin removing the ink until you are happy with the result.

Be careful of using too much of any liquid solvents, as the press will cause the pooled ink to ‘bleed’ off the plate.

Soak your paper:

Soak the paper for a few minutes in order to flesh out the fibers. Blot dry on a clean white towel or blank newsprint.

Make a template:

This is in order to allow for correct registration and placement of the paper each time you print, making sure that the margins around the image are equidistant, or as desired.  An orthodox approach suggests equidistant top and side margins, with the bottom margin weighted slightly (by an extra third of the other margins).


Place the plate image up on the press bed, then place the paper over the plate by pinching one side down over the template before gently lowering the rest of the sheet over the plate and template. It is important not to shift the paper once it has been lowered on to the plate.

Roll the press slowly and smoothly to the other side. Peel back the paper by carefully lifting the print from one corner to the other, moving slowly in order to avoid ‘picking’, whereby the paper fibers adhere to the plate and ruin your print.  If the inked plate has been left too long before printing this may also happen, but generally speaking one has more than enough time to work with ink before it becomes too tacky.

Alternative methods:

You can also work without a press by placing paper onto an inked plate and drawing from behind the print.  In this way the ink transfers onto the surface of the paper in a linear fashion, depending on the width of the tool used to draw and apply pressure.

You can use colour by mixing oil with an ink medium base available at:

Continental Printing Inks (011 622 2818, 91 Mimetes Rd, Denver, Johannesburg).


Interesting links and artists working in this medium:

Colbert Mashile

Minnette Vári

Deborah Bell

Mary Wafer

  • Preparing the plate
  • Rolling out ink
  • Apply ink to plate
  • Soak your paper
  • Print
  • Print