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What is a Monotype?

A Monotype Party, 1897 monotype by Corwin Knapp Linson
A Monotype Party, 1897 monotype by Corwin Knapp Linson

You’ll find the word “monotype” everywhere in our catalog, but do you know what it is?

A monotype is a print, but with one major difference from other printmaking processes: the artist creates exactly one print, instead of multiples (called editions). This is due to the way a monotype is made.

To make a monotype, the artist applies paint or ink directly onto the plate — which can be metal, glass, plexiglas, or even gelatin. The plate is pressed against the paper to transfer the ink. (So the finished print is a mirror image of what’s on the plate.) The printing can be done with a printing press or sometimes by hand.

A monotype by Art League instructor Mike Francis (click for full size)
A monotype by Art League instructor Mike Francis (click for full size)

It’s a simple process that allows for lots of experimentation and variation. The artist can create layered prints, use objects as masks between plate and paper, or selectively apply pressure to create a trace monotype. After the first print is pulled, there will be some ink left on the plate for a second, fainter ghost print.

(To learn about a related term, monoprint, read our Q&A with artist Katherine Rand.)

The Fireside, monotype by Edgar Degas, 1876–77.

Want to give it a try? We have classes and workshops on monotypes throughout the year! Just search our catalog for the word “monotype.”

The 2014 Monotype Party. Photo by Francis Hipschen.
The 2014 Monotype Party. Photo by Francis Hipschen.

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Did you know: The Art League's Art Camp is the longest running visual arts camp in the area! We've been here for more than 30 years! While sadly we can't find any photos from the '80s (please let us know if you have any lying around), let's take a look back at the last several years of burgeoning kid artists and eight years of fun at Art Camp!

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