Tutorial: Monotypes

Making and Made

All last winter we were obsessed with making monotypes around here. For us it was a the first time we could work together on a project that the process was the focus. Up until then our art work had focused on using supplies to play with color, texture, and line. But for the most part the media was only a tool. I had all my old print making stuff in a box on the shelf and one day while we were talking about different sorts of ink (yes this is the sort of thing we talk about at our house) I brought out my print making ink to show him the difference. This led to a discussion of printmaking, and of why someone might choose to print rather than paint. Which, inevitably led to us deciding to do some printing of our own.

We looked at a few books like this one and this one. As well as a whole bunch of youtube videos. But the sticking point for us that we came up with was the fact that most prints are made by drawing or carving first, not exactly a satisfying thing for a boy who prefers abstracts. So I promised that I would look a little harder for a way that we could do some printmaking together. That’s when I hit on monotypes. The sort that we enjoy are a resist method; this mean that we cover the panels with ink and then place flat things on the ink that keep the ink from getting through. A monotype is a sort of printmaking where each print you make is different, and can not be reproduced exactly.

Monotype:a single print taken from a design created in oil paint or printing ink on glass or metal.”

Thus was born our obsession.


Printmaking ink in one or two colors.

Two (or more) 12×9 pieces of lexan (or some other stiff clear plastic with at least an inch space around the size of your paper).

Paper (heavy sketch paper or printing paper both work).

A brayer or two.

A rolling pin.

Some sort of dish that you can submerge your paper in (we have a lasagna pan).

Three rags (this is super important one is for dirty things, one is clean and for water spills, and one is dry; make sure the dirty one doesn’t get near the water).

Printer paper, string, yarn, stencils, and any other flat found objects you want.

Two pieces of felt (the sort you can find at a craft store).

A Tablespoon, or bone folder.

Some where to dry your prints (we ran out of space so we hung a drying line across the room).


1. Set up your supplies. It is really important to have everything out before you start the printmaking. You need to have a spot for inking and making your design, a spot for soaking paper (this needs to be kept free of ink), a spot for printing (rolling), and a place for drying.

Wet Station

This is our wet station notice how it is not near the ink at all.

2. Soak your paper. Put about two inches of warm water in your dish and slide the paper in so that it is under the water. If you are using sketch paper you may have to flip it over after a minute. [We usually have this going on while we are working on our prints] The paper should be soaked all the way through not just wet on the top, but it shouldn’t be mushy either.

3. Design your print. Older kids may want to do this first if the have something intricate they want to do. We generally use cotton yarn and cut out snow flakes or other simple designs out of paper. If you are using string we just make sure we have enough pieces that are small enough for the panel (the cut strings are reusable). If you are making a cut paper design, use the clean panel to arrange the pieces and then remove them for inking.
Creating the Resist

4. Inking your panel. Ink your panel (plastic piece) use one of the panels as the place where you roll out the ink. Do this by squeezing out a generous dollop of ink on to it and using the brayer to flatten it out. Then roll the brayer in the ink until the brayer is fully covered. Then take the brayer and roll it out onto the panel that you are planning on making your print on. To get the best coverage roll only in one direction pushing (pull back afterwards can pull up some of the ink that you have just laid down). You may have to put more ink on the brayer a few times. Have the inked space of the panel be a little smaller than your piece of paper so that you can lift it off after printing without getting ink every where.

5. Arrange your stuff. Take your paper cut outs and yarn and lay them onto the ink, being careful not to smudge or lift any of the ink.


6. Laying the paper. After you take the paper out of the water (with clean hands) you need to get the excess water off. We have a squeegee from screen printing we use but you can also use a clean dry cloth on both sides of the paper. Once you’ve gotten the water off carefully line it up over your panel and lay it down. This is the delicate part of the process since once the paper touches the ink you really can rearrange it. Once it is down gently use your spoon or bone folder to work out any wrinkles or bubbles. Do this carefully so that you don’t move the paper or the things underneath.

7. The printing. Place the panel between two pieces of felt on a cleared surface. Then using the rolling-pin roll over the print. Make sure that you are using even pressure all the way across and on both sides. A table where you can lean into the rolling is helpful, there needs to be a reasonable amount of pressure. (we are lucky to have a book press so that is how we do this step)

8. Pulling the print. When you are done with the rolling it is time to take the paper off of the panel. This needs to be done carefully. Take two corners and slowly peel it off the print.

9. Drying. Once the paper is off of the panel it need to be put some where to dry that it won’t get disturbed. We hang ours up between two windows.

Our Work


1. Print a ghost which means that you take the panel that you just printed and print it again without changing anything or adding any ink.

2. The removal method, instead of blocking the ink by covering it you can use a q-tip or sponge brush and draw into the ink. We found that you had to get the lines very clean to do this method.

3. Multiple registers. This works best with paper cutouts. Once you have done your first layer you can repeat the process (without the paper wetting stage) with a different color ink. I found that letting it dry a little bit work the best otherwise the two inks tend to blend and you do not get clear lines.