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  • Making To Make Happy

How to make a Trace Monotype Print at Home | Beginners Printmaking

Have you ever tried Trace Monotype? It’s a kind of printmaking which is super accessible and speedy…and you can absolutely give it a go at home.


The key things to remember? To be spontaneous, to work quickly and to just have fun playing with the process!



What you’ll need:

  • A Shiny Surface - I use a piece of glass taken from an old photo frame, but you could also use a sheet of plastic, such as acrylic or acetate, or even some tin foil taped down to the table. If you have a table surface which is non-porous, and you don’t mind the mess, you could even work directly on your table!

  • Roller/Brayer* - you don’t need an expensive one of these (mine is a cheap small one!), but they do make it easier to get an even spread of ink. However, you could also try using a small decorating sponge roller, or even spread the ink out with a a flat sponge.

  • Small square of card - to spread the initial blob of ink out

  • Block Printing Ink * (Water-based or Oil-based) - you could also try using acrylic paints, but bear in mind they will dry out faster, and may stick to the paper if you take too long to pull the print.

  • Paper - Plain printer paper is fine!

  • Pencil/Pen/Stick - anything you can make marks or draw with!

Let’s get going!…


Roll out your ink onto your shiny surface

  • You can roll the ink out into a tray first if you like, or do it directly onto your shiny surface. Place a small blob of ink onto the tray/surface.

  • Take your small square of card and scrape the blob of ink across the surface in a horizontal line.


  • Take your roller and use it to pull down ink from that line. Repeat this motion, rolling the ink downwards towards you, until you have an evenly spread patch of ink.



  • If you have pulled this ink on a separate tray, now take your inky roller and roll it onto your shiny surface. You want to create an inky patch (roughly the size of the paper you wish to print on) - so keep re-loading your roller with ink from the tray, and then rolling it onto your shiny surface, until you have built up an evenly spread patch. It doesn’t have to be perfect though!

Let’s doodle!…


Place a piece of paper lightly on top of the inky patch you have created.

Don’t press down anywhere on this paper unless you want it to make a mark! Always remember, any pressure you place on the paper will pick up the ink beneath it - so try not to rest your hand too heavily on the page while you sketch, if you can.

Now, you can grab a pencil and draw!

The first time, just have a go doodling different lines or shapes onto the paper. If you are feeling confident, you can start sketching out a design.

Try using different pressures - pressing down lightly with the pencil in some areas, and pressing heavier in others. You can also try using your fingers, or different tools (pens, sticks etc), to draw with - they’ll all create different textured marks in the final print.


Don’t forget - your ink is drying as you draw, (water-based inks will dry out quicker than oil-based ones though), so don’t get too focussed on the details. Keep your drawing spontaneous and speedy. But also, try not to worry! My example here took me about 6 minutes to draw, so you’ll be surprised at how you DO still have time to play.

Time to Print!…


When you are done doodling, you can pull your print. This will be a completely unique print too!


Pinch a corner of your paper and peel it up and away from the ink.


Take a look - how did it come out? Are you surprised?



Take notice of the light and dark tones you managed to create, and the lovely textures of the lines you printed. They are often unlike any result you can get from other processes.


On my example here, I love the scribbly nature of the design because it feels fun and gives the print a sense of movement. The lines have a lovely dusty quality up close too!

Cleaning up…


To create a fresh design, you simply need to clean your surface and re-roll out more ink.

  • To clean away water-based inks, you can use a cloth/kitchen towel dampened with water

  • To clean away oil-based inks, you can use a cloth/kitchen towel dampened with sunflower or vegetable oil.

Always remember to clean your roller too, before any ink dries onto it!

Printmaking doesn’t have to be a long process or an overwhelming one - you can simply have a quick doodle, let your hands wander, and see what happens. You never know what you might create in a moment of spontaneity!


Let me know if you give Trace Monotype a try - feel free to tag me on Instagram @gemmathepen - I’d love to see your results.

Thanks for reading!


Keep making to make happy!


Love Gem x

* The Background Blurb - Just so's you know:

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