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  • Writer's pictureMaking To Make Happy

What are Monotypes? | Beginner’s Printmaking

Updated: Mar 28

Monotypes sound kinda fancy and the joy of them is that they can be so varied. Lots of different methods of printmaking can lead to the creation of a Monotype and that’s because…

A Monotype = A one of a kind print

When you create a monotype, you are creating something which cannot be replicated in exactly the same way again. So, for example, if you ink a design onto a piece of plastic directly, drawing it on in a painterly way, when you put paper on top of it and take a print, the design transfers to the paper and leaves little ink on the plastic. Due to the design being created from the ink itself, and the ink being moveable, the design is ultimately temporary. Meaning, you are unable to get another print, exactly the same, from that design.

Now, you may hear the term Monoprint being used instead, and sometimes it can get confusing as to the difference…

A Monoprint = A one of a kind print, but that is part of a series

When you use a printmaking technique such as Collagraph or Drypoint, you create a “plate”, or a “matrix”, which holds your design on it. The plate is a solid thing - the design is built, scratched or sealed onto it. This means, the ink that creates the print is not the design itself - it just sits on top of the design. Therefore, when the ink transfers away from the design to the paper, the design itself is not taken away too - just the ink.

When you ink up your plate, you can choose to ink it differently every time - but even though the colours or tones may vary between each print, you’ll always get a version of the plate design. The plate is the constant - the parent, as it were. All of the prints you take from it are siblings, springing from that parent, but each is still unique.

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Types of Monotype Printmaking:

Check out my videos about Monotype Printmaking to see some of these in action!...

Drawing/Trace Monotype:

This is when you put an even rolling of ink onto a shiny surface, then place a piece of paper on top. Any pressure you then place upon the paper will result in a mark, transferring the ink below to the paper. You can use your fingers, or various tools (brushes, pencils etc) to draw over the paper. The harder you press, the darker the lines you’ll make from the ink.


This is when you put an even rolling of ink onto a shiny surface, then begin to remove parts of the ink to create a design (so reducing, or subtracting, the ink). You can use brushes, cotton buds, kitchen roll or your fingers…lots of things make interesting marks and textures. You are essentially working from Dark to Light - the areas you remove are the highlights, and the ink you leave on will be the shadows.


This is when you add ink onto a shiny surface, to create the design you wish to print from. You are painting your design directly onto the plate. So you are adding ink to the surface as you go.

If you have any questions about any of the above, do get in touch! You can email me through my Contact page or find me on Instagram: @gemmathepen. You can also check out all my free videos on YouTube or classes on Skillshare for more printmaking adventures.

Keep making to make happy!

Love Gem x

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