September 2010



Monoprints and Monotypes, do you know the difference?

The monoprint and the monotype are one of a kind artworks achieved by applying colored inks to a smooth surface and then transferring that image to paper. In essence: printed paintings. The two terms are often used interchangeably and both are spontaneous techniques that create painterly quality prints.

Monoprints can be found back in the 1600s when artists experimented with intaglio plates, re-wiping and inking in different ways from traditional inking and printing techniques. They were called “painted drawings.”

Rembrandt created the first monotype by applying a heavy film of black or brown ink onto an etching plate, drawing his white lines with a blunt stick and creating tones with a variety of tools. The plate was then printed using a press, as with all intaglio prints.

William Blake became one of the most important artists to work with monotypes. He painted with egg tempera onto a board, retouched with drawing tools or brushes. Using rags, fingers and brushes Edgar Degas experimented with adding richer color to his works, sometimes adding pastels and finishes to enhance the colors. Paul Gauguin developed his own unique technique called trace monotype. By inking a sheet of paper and laying another sheet over it and drawing, a new linear type of imagery created original painted drawings. Paul Klee used the technique later in his works.

Monoprints are the simpler of the two processes. A handprint on paper is a monoprint. There is always a pattern or part of an image which is constantly repeated in each print, sometimes a pattern or etched plate to add texture. It can be created using any technique: relief, intaglio or planographic. Each print is different from the other, as the artist works each plate individually, adding color or wiping the ink differently each time a print is pulled.

The monotype is created by covering a clean matrix entirely with etching ink, then removing the ink to create the lighter and white areas of the picture being made. A variety of tools can be used to create the lines, figures, and images. In monotypes sometimes a clean plate is used and the colors applied. It involves drawing, painting and printing techniques. It is not possible to create two that are alike.

When the image is ready, the plate is run through the etching press with a piece of dampened rag paper. The ink transfers from the plate to the paper, depending on the thickness of the ink creating expected and unexpected outcomes. Chine colle and frottage are the application of fine Japanese papers or printed papers to the printed image before the actual printing is done.

Both monoprints and monotypes are considered original works and are good investments in fine art. Monotypes usually are valued higher than monoprints as the monoprints are originals but they can exist in a series or edition, each with modifications.


Monoprint by Alajandro Villalobos
Bouquet 1


Cristalina (series Water)
Monotype with Inks
by Lorena Villalobos


To see a collection of new monotypes available by Lorena Villalobos click here.



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