How to make an Additive Monotype Print at Home
Updated: Sep 14
What is Additive Monotype Printmaking?
Effectively, it's as if you are creating a painting, but on a shiny surface. Then you take a print of that painting.
It's called Additive Monotype because you add the ink onto the plate (your surface) and everything that is on the plate will get printed.
What’s the point of it?
You might wonder, seeing as you can easily create a painting on a canvas or in a sketchbook, what the point of creating a printed painting is. That’s ok - questions are welcome here!
Additive Monotype is an experimental playground and there are two reasons I would encourage you to try out this type of painting:
Firstly, when you're painting on a shiny surface the ink acts very differently from when you're painting on a canvas. The shininess of the surface lets the ink move around in fresh ways and creates unique textures that are hugely fun!
Secondly, this technique allows you to test out your composition as you go along and, if you don't like it, you can go back to that original plate, move the ink around, change it, remove it, add new stuff on... you can see what works and what doesn't. And from taking prints along the way, you have an automatic record of your progress and choices. Nifty, huh?!
How to print an Additive Monotype at home...
You will need:
Some brushes to apply ink/paint with (though, if you want to use your fingers, no one here is stopping you!)
Some plain paper to print onto. You can make a start with basic computer printer paper.
A shiny surface. This will be your “plate” (ie. where you’ll create your painting). This can be a sheet of Acrylic, Glass, Acetate, Mirror, or even just the table you’re working on (as long as it is non-porous and easy to clean)
Ink/Paint. I recommend water-based inks for first-timers, because they are easy to clean up and are affordable. They can dry out quicker though, so that’s the downside. Other options are: Oil-based inks, which give you a longer timeframe to paint in before they start drying out; or acrylic paint with an extender medium mixed in. (In this blog I use Essdee Inks*)
Water and kitchen towel/cloths for cleaning up or removing ink. (If you are using Oil-based inks, you’ll need vegetable or sunflower oil instead of water.)
Have your inks, brushes and paper within easy reach of your plate. If you are using water-based inks you’ll need to work with a bit of speed - the drier the inks get on the plate, the lighter and less effective your prints could be.
If you are using a transparent shiny surface (such as glass or acrylic) you can place things underneath to act as a guide for your painting. This could be a plain piece of paper, so you can easily see what size to create your design, or it could be a sketch or photo that you can trace over.
Painting & Printing:
Blob a small mount of ink onto a palette or into a pot. A little Ink goes a long way, and you can always add more when you need it.
Start brushing ink onto your plate surface. Experiment with different brush types and watch how the ink moves. For your first print, stick to one colour to keep it simple - you can try out the technique and see what happens. More colours can come later!
Pay attention to how the ink is drying out - if you feel it starting to resist as you move it, that’s the time to take a print before it gets too dry.
Take a piece of paper and place it over the top of your design. Use your full palm, using the base of your palm to give firm pressure downwards. Move your hands over the paper slowly, giving equal attention to the whole plate and making sure pressure is placed on all areas.
When you are ready, take a corner of the paper and peel the print upwards slowly.
You did it!
Take a good look at your print. Printing with this method at home means it can be hard to get deep tones, because without a printing press, it’s tricky to enforce enough pressure onto the plate. BUT, even when the prints are fainter, you still get the most amazing textures on your paper.
Take a moment to really look closely and lose yourself in those textures. I swear, they pull you in the longer you look!
Round Two, Three, Four….Infinity!
Now you can go back in to your plate and add more ink, or change it around. It’s time to truly play!
Try adding different colours, using different ways of applying the ink (brushes, tissue, fingers, sponges etc).
Try printing with different paper types - thinner, thicker, damp, dry… They will all give you varying results!
With all art we make it up as we go along and hope for the best. Problem solve as problems arise and know that the answers will come!
Remember, at any point you can grab a piece of tissue and utilise the reductive monotype method - you can absolutely combine them in together! If you have paint on your plate and you're not quite happy with how it's going or you want to add some highlights somewhere, then you can always take ink off of the plate as well as putting more on.
At any point you can go in to get a ghost print. A ghost print is when you don't add anything extra to your plate after having taken the print, you just go straight in with another piece of paper and take a print of whatever is left on your plate. It usually comes out with a very faint impression of whatever your design is. They can be great for drawing on top of or using in collages.
Use water on a cloth or kitchen towel - wipe it over your plate and the ink should lift off easily.
Use Vegetable or Sunflower Oil on a cloth or kitchen towel to wipe your plate with.
Let me know how your Additive Monotype experiments come out! Tag me @gemmathepen on Instagram - I’d love to see your results!
Thanks for reading!
Keep making to make happy!
Love Gem x
* Please note that any links with an asterisk are affiliate links - they cost you nothing to click on, but do allow me to make a small commission on qualifying purchases.