MM Part Four – Research – Print Trials – Monoprint

Printing techniques and materials

After completing the written research for this part of the course I was eager to actually print something.  Before embarking on the directed projects I wanted to try out the materials I already had to hand and explore these a little.

I chose a series of exercises and produced a set of prints using a range of inks and surfaces, but only a single type of paper. This allowed the ink and surface used to be contrasted more easily.

Paper used was 100gsm white copy paper. From the number of exercises I had chosen and the possibility of extra prints being needed I decided to use a cheap, easily available paper. This allowed one variable to be taken out of the process so that all prints made could be compared.

Material pairings were:

Gelli plate and acrylic paint

Clear cut block and block printing ink

Perspex and water-soluble oil based ink

For each of the above the following prints were taken:

Inked plate

Paper laid on plate and back of paper drawn in to

Plate inked and drawn into

Paper mask on plate

Paper mask removed

String, thread, yarn laid on inked plate

String, thread, yarn removed

Ink brushed directly on to plate

Crayon drawn on to paper before printing

Biro lines drawn on the paper before printing

Pencil drawn on to paper before printing

Printing over ink wash

Masking fluid painted on to paper before printing

Print from plate after masking fluid painted paper removed

Bubble wrap pressed in to inked plate surface

Print from bubble wrap

Series of prints taken from bubble wrap, colour added using different media


These exercises gave me a good chance to get to grips with these printing techniques. Some of the material combinations worked better in some exercises then others. While some of the materials used were not easily compatible.

From the prints produced I have determined the following.

Gelli plate and acrylic paint

Gelli plates are synthetic painting plates, made to have a similar consistency to gelatin plates. Gelli plates are made of mineral oils and can only be used with acrylic paints or inks.

Good texture and detail is retained by the plate, such as brush marks applied directly to the surface or from items being pressed in to the printing surface. Due to the soft surface, paint is not easily removed from the plate – more being pushed across the surface than being removed, and it is not a good surface for back-drawing as there is not enough resistance from the plate surface to transfer paint easily.

The Gelli plate cleans up easily and dried on paint can either be wiped off or more liquid acrylic ink can be rolled on to the dried paint to lift it from the surface.

Further colour was applied to these prints after they had dried. Acrylic ink is waterproof when dried so soluble media such as watercolour was easily applied over the top of these prints. However, perhaps due to the thick layers of paint transferred in some prints, wax crayon or coloured pencil disturbed the surface of the prints when rubbed across them. Wax from the soluble media used also sat on the surface of the prints once the media has been brushed over with water.

Clear cut block and block printing ink

Clear cut is a lino substitute that is a little bit softer and easier to cut. I thought that, as lino is used to print from, this might be a good surface to try as a mono-printing surface. Block printing ink was used as this would be a suitable material to print this surface if it was used for its designated use.

This A5 block gave a good printing surface as it was very smooth, as were the edges.

There was sufficient resistance in the plate surface to transfer ink when back-drawing in to paper but the plate grabbed on to the ink well which meant that paint was smudged, rather than removed, when drawing directly on to the inked plate. Also due to this not as much detail was retained by the inked plate as on the Gelli plate when textured surfaces were pressed in to the ink.

Block printing ink was used, this dried well on the paper but was re-hydrated when water-soluble media was applied. This moved the ink and resulted in smudged prints.

Perspex and water-soluble, oil-based ink

The Perspex sheet used for these prints was cut from an old shed window. This was easily cut by scoring with a craft knife and then snapping the sheet carefully. The edges of the sheet were then smoothed with wet and dry paper.

This surface was the hardest used for my printing tests.

Oil-based ink was used as a contrast to the previous inks. Those dried to a matt finish whereas the oil-based ink gave a slightly shiny finish. This ink gripped well to the plate but this meant that it was difficult to move across the plate such as drawing directly in to the ink. However this difficulty in moving the ink resulted in the lines produced from this method being very well-defined.

However this ink was very slow to dry, even weeks after printing, and a brief pressing with an iron, the ink can still be rubbed off.

Adding extra colour after printing has disturbed the slightly damp surface and has resulted in smudged prints. Also this ink was water-soluble so adding extra water has again re-hydrated the ink, resulting in smudging.


These exercises have given me a good start in how to apply ink or paint to different surfaces. It has also produced a good collection of prints that will provide a reference for future work. From this work the following can be concluded:-

Gelli plate and acrylic paint are probably the best combination for drawing directly on to printing surface.

Gelli plate holds detail of brush strokes well.

Paint can still be printed if it dries on to the Gelli plate surface, acrylic ink can be rolled on to lift the dried paint.

Easy to find more colours in acrylic paint.

Extender can be added to acrylic paint to prolong working time.

Gelli plate surface is too soft for back drawing.

Add colour to paper before printing, if required, less chance of disturbing the ink surface this way.

Ink/paint did not resist in the way I had hoped, mostly as they were in some way water-soluble themselves.

A hard surface is needed to make good back drawings. Resistance from the plate is required to allow ink to transfer from plate to paper surface.

Block-printing ink allows a reasonable amount of time for work to be completed before it dries out on the plate. Also dries in <48 hours after printing.

Oil-based inks take a long time to dry. Over two months since some of these trial prints were made and the ink can still smudge if brushed against or wiped over.


These tests have created a good volume of prints that can be used as references for future exercises in this module or further work. These prints have been collated and bound together.

This has been approached as if it was a science experiment. I realise that this is a very formal way to produce work but for me this is the easiest way to test out a method or technique.



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