Monoprinting is a good technique for creating spontaneous and expressive print work
Monoprinting is the process of making a print using ‘mark making’.
Mark making is any mark made using any material on any surface, such as:
- pencil on paper
- photoshop brush mark on a screen
- scratch in clay
- paint on a canvas
A mark can be a line, a dot, a scratch, a curve, a thumbprint and so on. Using different tools can help create different thicknesses and types of marks.
The colour used to create monoprints is usually water-based ink. A roller is used to apply the ink evenly over the a printing sheet. This is usually an acrylic sheet or other washable flat surfaces.
There are two methods to create a monoprint:
Draw patterns, shapes and designs directly onto an inked surface, usually an acrylic sheet. Gently lay a piece of paper on top of the inked surface to pick up the design.
Apply the paper, face down, directly to the inked acrylic surface and draw out your design on the back of the piece of paper whilst it is in position. The pressure will lift ink from the acrylic sheet to leave an image of what you have drawn on your paper.
Monoprints work well for simple designs with just one or two colours
Monoprinting is mainly used for fine art prints and textiles work.
It is used for single prints or very small ‘runs’. Only a very limited amount of prints can be created this away as each print removes a layer of ink from the acrylic sheet.
The most successful monoprints are simple designs. They are usually limited to one colour, however you can put more than one colour onto your acrylic sheet.
This is a loose and imprecise way of working. It is a good way of creating prints spontaneously.
There are some key points to bear in mind to make sure your monoprints turn out well:
- Always make sure your printing sheet is dry before applying water-based ink. If the sheet is not dry your ink will water down and you will not get a ‘crisp’ print.
- If you find that your monoprints are too dark and the detail isn’t visible, too much ink has been applied to the acrylic sheet. You may need to blot off the ink using a piece of paper.
- Always clean printing equipment as soon as possible after use.
- Take care because every mark you make will transfer to the print, including thumbprints.
Fabrics are printed by block or screen printing.
Block printing is done using metal or wooden blocks, one for each colour. The background shapes are cut away to leave a raised design on the block. Dye is applied and stamped onto the fabric. This is a slow process used by specialised craft industries.
Look at the traditional Indian technique of block printing. Watch
In screen printing a pattern is printed onto fabric through a stencil held in place by a screen. Each screen prints one part of the design in one colour. After printing the dyestuff must be fixed using steam or dry heat.
Manual flat-bed screen printing
Manual flat-bed screen printing is a slow process, done by hand. It is used by designer-makers for complicated fabric designs or for small runs.
- Mesh is stapled to a frame to make a screen.
- Masking tape is stuck to the underside of the screen.
- A stencil is made from paper.
- The stencil is placed under the screen but on top of the paper.
- Ink is poured at one end of screen.
- A squeegee is used to press down and draw ink across screen.
- The screen is carefully lifted.
- The print is checked before the process is repeated.
Industrial flat-bed screen printing
Industrial flat-bed printing automates this process, with the fabric moved through the machine on a conveyor belt and the print repeating rapidly.
Rotary screen printing
Rotary screen printing uses CAD and roller squeegees. One roller is used for each colour. This is a very fast process used in the continuous printing of furnishing and clothing fabrics.
Watch a video on CAD and rotary screen printing. Watch
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