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Monotype or Monoprint?

Aren't these the same thing? Not quite, here's why......

Experimental Monotype
Experimental Monotype

The short answer is that a monotype is always completely unique and a monoprint can be one of a series of prints taken from the same plate. Let's take a closer look......

The terms 'monoprint' and 'monotype', are often used interchangeably. But the difference is in the processes used to create them.

The similarities:

Both a monotype and a monoprint involve the transfer of ink from a non-absorbent surface (e.g. metal, glass, perspex, foam or polycarbonate), to paper, canvas or some other artist-selected surface.

Another similarity is that both involve the use of a pressure, either via a press with a metal roller applying the pressure, or the use of a handheld brayer or baren to do the same. Both methods of pressure application will transfer ink from the plate onto the paper.

But that's really where the similarities end.

The differences:

Monotypes are always unique.

The plate for a monotype is a blank smooth non-absorbent surface that has no permanent markings or incisions.

A small amount of printing ink is applied to the plate and rolled out to an even finish using a brayer. The image is created directly on the surface plate by manipulating the ink (making marks into the ink, smudging or wiping the ink off the plate). The ink can also be applied in a painterly way using brushes or spatulas. Paper is then put over the top of the inked plate and pressure is applied to effect the transfer of the image. What is created is a unique one-of-a-kind work on paper. It can never be recreated as once the print is pulled, and ink is removed, another print cannot be taken from the same plate that will produce the same results as the first.

Examples of Monotype Prints
Examples of Monotype Prints

The monotypes shown in the image above were all made on a small (roughly A5 sized) piece of perspex plate, onto which I rolled a layer of water based block printing ink. I then worked into the ink with cotton buds, tissue paper, stiff brushes, pieces of cardboard and a water spray; lifting areas of ink and creating scratchy marks in more solid areas. Each print was entirely unique, as once I had pulled the print I had to clean residual ink off the plate and begin the process of creating an image anew.

Monoprints can be created as a series.

The plate for a monoprint begins as a blank, smooth non absorbent surface which is then permanently etched in some way with a tool to create scratches or incisions in the surface.

The image that's etched on the plate is the underlying image of all the monoprints in a given series. It is a constant that is 'common' to each print in the series.

Monoprints, unlike monotypes, can be created as a series by repeatedly printing from the same plate to produce results that have a 'common' image; though each individual print may later be altered or enhanced in some way by the artist to create a slightly different and ultimately unique final image; for example the 'common' image might be recoloured, tinted or additional hand drawn marks may be added to the print etc.

Monoprints are often thought of as variations on one theme. The theme is the etched 'common' image that is on all the prints. A series of monoprints are usually created in a limited edition which are each individually numbered.

It is possible to create just a single monoprint, but often when work has gone into etching the image, the artist will create more than one print using that same plate.

Example of a monoprint
Example of a Monoprint

I created this monoprint using a piece of foam board, into which I pressed a Banskia seed head. This left indentations in the 'plate'. I then rolled ink over the plate and pulled the first of several prints. I can now print this image over and over again as the impressions in the plate will stay the same and this image will be 'common' to all future prints. I could create a series of these prints if I chose to and perhaps hand tint them, with inks or paint for example, to create unique final images.

I hope that helps unravel the differences between these two types of prints!

Keep an eye out for the release of my new series 'Portal' which includes both types of prints along with paintings and mixed media collages.

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