Monotype vs Lithograph (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Lithographs & Monotypes, & How To Choose Between Them)

Monotype vs Lithograph: What Is the Difference Between Them?

There are many differences between a monotype vs a lithograph.

To really understand the difference between a monotype vs a lithograph, let’s first look at what is a monotype in printmaking, and then we’ll take a look at lithographs.

What Is a Monotype in Printmaking?

In latin, mono means one and type means kind. Just think, “one-of-a-kind”.

You only get one print (one-of-a-kind) from the whole monotype printing process. This is what distinguishes a monotype from other types of prints.

Essentially, a monotype is a painting done on a smooth surface, which is then imprinted (stamped) onto a piece of paper when it’s still wet. You can only imprint this painting on paper once.

This type of artwork is a perfect blend between a painting and a print.

The video below shows the basic steps of how professional artists create monotypes.

Monotype Printmaking

First, the artist gets a smooth, clean surface to paint on. This surface is usually a glass, plastic, or metal printing plate.

Then comes the fun part!

The artist covers the plate with 1 or more colors of oil paint, printing ink, watercolors, gouache, or whatever kind of pigment they prefer.

Then, the artist can also quickly rub and scratch parts of the paint or ink off the plate to create the artwork. They can also add texture by adding materials like leaves, stencils, fabrics, etc, on top and/or under the painting. This is the advantage of monotype printing over the usual painting process.

While the painting is still wet, and with the painted side up, the plate is now placed on the bed of a rolling printing press. It’s then covered with a sheet of damp paper and a set of printing blankets (used to soften the pressure on the printing plate).

The plate is then moved through the press, the damp paper is pressed completely agains the printing plate, and the artwork appears (in reverse) on the paper.

There’s been an increase use of gel printing plates being used to make monotypes. This type of plate let’s you make a monotype easily without needing a printing press.

What Is a Lithograph in Printmaking?

Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.

This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other.

Take a look at the video below, where they show how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like.

How Lithographs Are Made

So, basically, a lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.

The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease and but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.

After some chemical processing, the drawing is placed in a press and the image is transferred onto a piece of paper, creating a mirrored picture.

The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.