Fish food – mono printing

27 May

Mono printing – it’s not for everyone. It’s dirty, it’s messy, and the results are usually rubbish. I have never come out with anything I’m happy enough with to frame or give to anyone, and most of it has ended up in the bin.

But this is why you should do it.

As always in this series THAT IS NOT THE POINT. The process is always more important that the end product, even though one day I hope to make a ‘good’ mono print.

Mono printing is cheap as it doesn’t require much equipment, easy, as it doesn’t require any particular skill to learn how to do it, and as quick as you want it to be. You can spend hours doing it, or just toss off a couple in half an hour.

What you need

  • water based printing ink – this is important, as it needs to not dry too quickly. I’ve had a 300ml tube for about 3 years now, and it can be used for other sorts of printing as well, so invest in some, in at least black, if not a few colours. This one is £8.45, working out cheaper if you get more than one and combine postage.
  • at least 1 roller, preferably 2 – if you can manage it, it’s really worth getting some rollers, they come in handy for a lot of stuff. Again, they’re easily found on ebay here from the same seller as above, so why not get both?
  • a surface – a glass board, table top, ceramic tile – basically if it’s washable, hard and smooth, you can use it
  • paper  – any paper can be used, in some of the photos I’m using old book pages, as I have more of those than plain paper.
  • marker pen and paintbrush or similar

How to do it

1. As I said, this is MESSY so don’t do it anywhere you don’t want to get dirty. The ink is water based and washes off really easily, but let’s not make it more difficult than it has to be.

2. Squeeze some ink onto your surfacemono14

3. Using the roller, spread the ink thinly over the surface. This is when your roller comes in handy, as trying to spread it with anything other than a roller can make it clumpy.



4. Mask off an area – it doesn’t matter how big it is for now, but as you do it more, if you want it to fit onto a particular size of paper. You can mask it off in a few ways, but pieces of paper and card are almost free unlike masking tape.


5. Make a drawing on the back of the paper – this step is optional, but as a beginner, you might feel more comfortable doing this. To prove you don’t need to be able to draw, I used this very poor sketch of my cat.


6. Put the paper on top of the surface, keeping the drawing inside the masked area.


7. Draw over the lines on the drawing with a thicker pen. I like to use an old sharpie or similar marker, as they’re nice and thick. it helps if your pen works, at least a bit, so you can be sure you know where you’ve already drawn.


8. Keep going until you finish. As you can see, I added extra bits, and didn’t stay on the lines – remember, it doesn’t matter.


9. Lift off the paper – you should have something like this….


You see? It’s a bit rubbish isn’t it? But I love doing it. Some are better than others. Sometimes I lean too hard on the surrounding paper, and end up just with a black splodge.

10. Now comes the other way to monoprint – look at your surface – you should just be able to see the outline of what you’ve drawn.


11. Using a pointy item (I’m using the end of a paintbrush) draw into the lines left behind to remove more ink from these lines so the picture is even more obvious.


12. Put a piece of paper on top of this


13. Using a CLEAN roller, roll over the top of this new sheet of paper.


14. Lift it off, and you can see how it’s an inverted image of what you had before.


15. There you have your two images! If they’re rubbish, who cares? Add some more ink, roll it out again, and do some more. This is when old paper you can’t use for anything else is vital as you start, because you need a lot of practice!


Here’s one of my favourite monoprints I ever managed to do.

college2 006

I managed to do this by placing things under the paper before rolling (like hessian, as you can probably see above is in red) and masking off areas so they didn’t get covered in ink.

It also shows one of the best things about monoprinting – you can be totally abstract, and keep adding to your print until you have something you’re happy with. I used a lot of my monoprint trials in another piece of work at college by making acetates with words and experimenting by putting it over the top of different backgrounds.

college2 003

Whilst it’s not great, it’s all primary research, which is important for courses, but it’s also all enjoyable, experimental and creative.

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