Project 1 – Your first monoprints

Experiments in mark making and painted plates

Experiments in water based printing inks, acrylic paints and medium, oil paints:

Well, the range of printing ink options made the start of this course much trickier than picking up a pencil to start drawing!

I started this off using Linoprint water based inks which I had three different colours – red, yellow and blue.


These were bright colours, mixed OK (to produce orange in this test), but were quite thick to paint with. I tried adding some acrylic medium to the red, but didn’t notice any difference in the outcome. The tests seemed to either be blotchy where there was too much ink, or showed up the brush strokes where there was less ink, but it seemed that getting any fine detail was going to be difficult. Colours on top of each other stayed distinct but gave interesting textures where they spread into each other at the edges. The second prints gave interesting textures, but weaker colours. The inks did dry up when working on the second prints.

The next medium tried was acrylic paint (not ink) and medium


This allowed some interesting effects, but again getting the thickness of the paint appear to be critical to the success of the more detailed effects. Colours on top of each other didn’t mix at all and these didn’t seem to spread as much as the water based inks. Acrylic paint without medium was too dry to print well. These dried out quickly after the first print though and the second prints were not as successful.

Then I moved on to oil paint (not ink) and linseed oil


These worked OK, again with issues of how thick to apply to get enough detail but not to spread. Also came with a reminder that text needs to be written backwards to print correctly.

It was good to experiment in these exercises, but highlighted that I had a lot to learn early on about inks in particular.


How did your print turn out? Was it as you expected?

  • OK. That’s a pretty bland statement, but I wasn’t overly pleased by my results, nor was I too disappointed. I was playing around, so didn’t have much in the way of expectations. I didn’t realise quite how much I had to learn about the inks before I could get started properly though.

What happens when you use the brush handle to draw through the ink on your printing plate?

  • This gave a nice effect to remove the ink from the plate, but it’s success depended on the thickness of the ink and whether it spread back into the lines.

Can you put one colour on top of another? What happens when this prints?

  • You certainly can. With acrylic paints the colours stayed distinct from each other, whilst water based inks and oil paints had some blending at the edges of the colours.

Painted monoprint from life

Still life of lino roller and ink tube in oil paint:


Oil paints seemed like a good option to start with as they took a long time to dry and I am pleased with the way this image worked out. I sketched the still life in pencil and placed it under the printing plate (not reversed) and painted using that as a guide.

Landscape in acrylic paint (no medium):


This was a disaster! But that’s how we learn I guess. I tried acrylic paint but didn’t add any medium to it. This obviously dried out to quickly and when I tried to print from it it stuck to both the paper and the printing plate and ripped the paper when I removed it.

Landscape in water based inks:


After a few additional experiments I tried this image again in water based inks. The areas where I had applied less ink worked well, but the tree did turn out very blotchy due to too much ink and it was less easy to paint with these inks than with the oil paints. I like the effect I achieved for the wispy clouds by rolling on the blue ink for the sky and then wiping off some of the ink from the plate.

Figure in acrylic paint with medium:

After doing some internet research on using ‘Golden open’ acrylic paint for printing, I tried using this with a thin layer of open acrylic gel (gloss) applied to the plate before printing.

I tried a smaller print this time, using a sketch of someone in the ‘Virabhadrasana I’ position from a yoga book (again not reversed).


I tried this print a few times, first without a background, then with one and for both of these I prefer the second print with the fainter colours and nice textures. The acrylic paint seemed to work well for these.

Before clearing up the remaining paint, I mixed it all together, rolled it onto the printing area and drew the figure with the back of a paintbrush which gave a nice effect.


Flower in acrylic paint with medium:


Staying with the acrylic paint as it was working for me now, I tried a print of a flower painted over a photograph which was placed under the printing plate. This didn’t work too well though as I failed to get any detail into the centre of the flower.


There is no limit to the number of colours you can use in a painted monoprint. Similarly you can make a monoprint of any size. Have you exploited these facts?

  • I mixed a number of colours for these monoprints, so whilst the prints don’t contain a vast spread of colours I think I have exploited this. I also tried a few different sizes, but haven’t done anything very big yet.

How have you translated your subject using the freedom given by the brush? Have you been able to express your ideas fully using the monoprint?

  • I think the first monoprint is my best image, where I have deliberately highlighted the brush strokes and the texture they bring to the print. I didn’t have too much success painting with the water based inks as they seemed to go blotchy when printed and the flat areas of colour for the acrylic figure print worked better on the second print, after the brush strokes had been eliminated by the first print and the ink had a nice texture to it. I think I have been able to express my ideas fully using the monoprint, but given they are initial learning and ‘playing around’ ideas I am sure I will realise limitations soon!
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