Monoprinting in oils

Well, first thing to say is that I’m a bit disappointed at how little time I’ve got at the moment for coursework, blogging or even sketching. Just started a new job and had a holiday, so it’s all been rather hectic.

Anyway, here’s a quick update on my first try at a monoprint using oil-based ink and a press – at the Edinburgh Printmakers Studio.

I decided to try a little landscape that I’d sketched recently, a beach in Assynt. This time I was using my recently-purchased plexiglass under which I placed an outline of my sketch.

I’m used to mixing the oil-based inks for relief printing (inc using driers and extenders), but for painting the inks had to be much less stiff. I used a little oil to loosen it, which worked quite well, but I think I just used too much – the result was bleeding and blotching – especially around the bothy area where there was supposed to be some finer detail. Perhaps a specific medium would have been better – I really just should have asked one of the techs for advice. Next time.


Unfortunately that evening I didn’t have a lot of time to try this again – mixing the inks took me ages (I’m such a slow worker)! And even then the green colour is really poor as I was getting impatient….but still there are aspects of this that I like – in particular the clouds came out much better than I expected. And I love using the press… no worries about picking up the ink this time!

I’m definitely going to revisit this image – I think it might work well using a combination of techniques like monoprinting for a background, sky, sea, with back drawing or even lino print for the stronger, black areas like the rocks and fine detail… we will see!

Update: unfortunately this print got lost at the studio.



Roses sketch

Here’s another monoprint that I did yesterday, based on some doodles of some of the roses in our garden. This time I rolled the ink onto a small vinyl relief printing block, then scratched the design in with the end of a paintbrush before printing. I enjoyed this technique very much – I tried it on the glass plate as well, but again was having problems getting the ink to be picked up evenly by the paper,  so tried the vinyl with better results – probably because it was easier to judge how much ink I’d added. Still quite patchy though…..sigh.

Roses print

I took another ghost image too from the same inked plate, and got a rather nice pale image that may be good as the first stage in a multi-level print.

My notes suggest using Acrylic medium to extend the drying times of the water-based inks, so I’ve just ordered some of that. I will perhaps also need to get myself down to the Printmakers’ studio and try it with some plexiglass, oil-based inks and a press.

Further experiments in monoprint

Alex sketch

This time I’m using a sketch of Alex that I did last month:

Alex sketch

Alex - sketch

As before I used the sketch as a guide underneath my glass plate – here are two of the resulting prints – I reworked the plate each time.

Here’s the plate as it was before (or perhaps after) that last print – see how much of the ink wasn’t picked up by the paper? (I also took a damp paper print, but did so rather carelessly so there was much smudging).

Inked plate

The face is the weakest part of my sketch, and this has carried through to the plate and print, but my main point of difficulty is that as before I’m having trouble with ink consistency, in particular with the ink drying out too quickly. In the second print you can see the final strokes in dark ink where the ink is much wetter.

That said, there are still areas I was quite pleased with – I like some of the textures on the clothing, and reckon if I can get the drying time  and ink consistency sorted out I’ll be much happier.

Still life monoprint mk II

A second shot at the still life exercise, and a much better result this time.

I changed the subjects to something a little more fun – a couple of  Zoe’s toys.  Here they are with a preparatory sketch:

Toys and sketch

Toys and sketch

And here’s the plate, ready to print. This took a while to do – I’m a slow worker – but to help I cheated slightly used my initiative and placed the sketch underneath the glass plate as a guide. The new inks were great and I paid more attention this time to the consistency of them, adding a little water and testing it on some scrap paper as I went. By the time I’d finished the last part of the image, the phone, the ink I’d applied first on the negative space and paler areas of the bunny had started to dry, so I went back over them a little.

inked plate

inked and ready to print

And here’s the first print –  I was rather pleased with it! (although you can see that much of the bunny colour has dried too much – some of the shadows were lost also).

Monoprint on cartridge paper

First print on cartridge paper

After the first one I worked into the image on the plate again with some more ink, and then tried a print on some Somerset printing paper – you can see the paper’s texture coming through the ink which actually suits the bunny rather well. The phone is better in this print – made some corrections to its shape, and I like the light and shade on the phone in this print, resulting from the dry (white) areas.

Second print on Somerset printing paper

Second print on Somerset printing paper

The print on the Somerset paper shows some of the texture of the paper.

After this the ink was getting quite dry on the plate but just as I was about to tidy up I thought I’d try some damp paper, and got an interesting result:

Nearly dry ink on damp Somerset printing paper

Nearly dry ink on damp Somerset printing paper

I think the patchiness is because I didn’t wet the paper properly so that it’s not evenly wet, but I really like the  full, blocky colour that the paper has picked up – I must try this again but properly dampened paper and see what happens…

In conclusion I was very happy with the results of this exercise. I feel much more confident now about ink drying time, blending colours on the printing plate, reworking/adjusting the image between prints, and achieving some light and shade.  This time I really enjoyed the feel of the ink on the glass too. Looking forward to the next exercise…

Painted monoprint from life

Last night I tackled the next exercise in the Monoprint project – painting a monoprint from a still life comprising two objects.

Here’re the subjects I chose – a Sansevieria (apparantly) and a little watering can. (Thought it was time the two things were introduced – this is the only house plant I own, and how it’s survived 5 years with at best annual watering is beyond me).

A bit of sketching…:

..then into painting, first the negative space in creamy yellow, then the rest of the colours.

Now, a few things went wrong at this point.

I was worried about the ink drying out, so felt I had to work fast… and for a similar reason also used far too much ink. Far too much! The upshot was that

  • Working too fast, without thinking, I dived straight in without enough care, and immediately got the proportions all wrong – so we have half a pot plant instead of a pot plant and a watering can and..
  • Too much ink!

Below on the left is the glass plate, inked up and ready to print (notice the white pattern which is on the underside of the glass placemat!). On the right is the first print from the plate. Not what I was hoping for – looks more like an underwater vision of seaweed –  but looking for positives I guess the shapes and colours aren’t too bad, and there’s the odd bit of shading that does give some of the form I was after – although most of that was lost in the print.

glass plate (left) and print (right)

glass plate (left) and print (right)

I also took a second print from the plate, which was a little better, but still too inky.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do it again last night, but I think what this says is that I need to go back and do some more test plates with a bit more of a purpose in mind, to get a better feeling for how to mix ink to the right consistency so that it stays dry for long enough to finish a painting.  Then i’ll try this exercise again.

Hmmm. I’m off to water my Sansevieria.

And she’s off!

After much delaying due to..well, just stuff…. I finally got started with the Printmaking 1 course. This was last week, just haven’t had time to blog about it until now!

Anyway, first project: Monoprints.

First task – assembling the materials. Luckily I already had most of the things I needed… a) a small linocut starter kit that I got from the V&A shop last year that includes a little roller  and some water-based inks, and b) a set of A4 sized glass placemats that will do for the printing plate and for mixing inks. I also already had a baren from previous experiments in lino cutting at home.

Next: mark making. This was lots of fun – no pressure as I knew I wasn’t trying to create anything in particular, just experiment with ink consistencies, colours, blending and use of different brushes and tools.

first monoprint marks

first monoprint marks

Here’s the first one – the first thing I found when I pulled the print was that large areas of yellow hadn’t printed at all as i’d just not used enough ink, and they’d dried out very quickly indeed. Perhaps I’d not used enough pressure too.

Othe areas that I’d diluted with water have a nice speckled texture to them, but too much water and the  ink just pooled.

I tried a second print from the same plate to see the ghosting effect – could be quite useful for building textures/backgrounds.

Using the roller

red and black monoprints - mark making

The two above were done by rolling on some colour first (the red thicker than the black, but both having been diluted a bit with water, giving that nice grainy texture), then making marks with wet and dry brushes, my fingers, the ends of paintbrushes and pieces of kitchen paper. I quite like these two.

Printing from the mixing plate

Inky mix

Just before packing up I used my brush to blend the inks left on my mixing glass plate, then took a print from there (on the left). You can see that by this time the inks are quite dilute, so lots of grainy textures ..except for the much denser blue swirl which looks lovely. I really liked the way the colours were blending directly on the plate. The second print (on a purple paper) was done by just adding some more inks into the mix – again, nice blending of colours, and the paper has picked up some nice background “ghost” tones too.


I felt quite cheered by these experiments – I can’t remember the last time I tried to paint anything to be honest, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the experimental nature of this exercise, the feeling of freedom in manipulating the inks directly on the plate, and particularly in blending colours directly too. And of course, the excitement you get when you pull that paper to see the result, which can never be fully predicted….

The only downside… printmaker’s pinky. A little blister from the times when I eschewed my baren in favour of my fist. You live and learn!