Learn How to Monoprint at Home (With Tools You Already Have!)

When you think of printmaking, you might imagine a studio full of large printing presses with the distinct smell of ink. And, you’re not wrong — that’s one printing technique. But, did you know that you can experiment and have fun with a special printing technique in your own home?

Learn how to monoprint using basic materials!

Essentially, monoprinting is a form of printmaking that creates images or lines that will be made only once. This differs from other types of printing where you’ll produce multiple pictures from one single plate. With monoprinting, every time is different. Today, we’re going to be painting a scene on glass and transfer it to paper.

monoprint materials

There are a couple of things that I like about this technique, and one of them is that you don’t need any special materials for it. Of course, you can buy a fancy brayer and printing inks, but you don’t need that stuff.

Here are the painting supplies I’m using:

  • A piece of glass from an old picture frame
  • Large, wooden spoon or rolling pin
  • Paper cut slightly larger than the glass
  • Printing inks or acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes

In terms of paper to print on, you can chose it based on your preference. I like watercolor paper and had it on hand.

1. Take out your paint brushes

painting on glass painted glass

I like how monoprinting is so much like painting. I squeezed some of my favorite inks onto my small palette and painted them on top of the glass. My designs are simple and quick, because I wanted to make sure the pigment didn’t dry before I got the chance to print it.

When you’re painting your image, think about what will happen after — you’re going to press the glass into paper. As a result, your ink will probably smear a bit. You’ll see what that looks like below.

2. Position your paper

placing paper on glass

Once you’re satisfied with your image, it’s time to print it. I carefully lined up my paper with the glass (here’s where it’s good to have paper that’s a little larger than your plate) and firmly pressed it onto the paper. Try not to move it around once you do that, or your image might look like it’s offset or crooked.

3. Use your wooden spoon

burnishing paper

Now that your paper is pressed into the glass, it’s time to use your wooden spoon to burnish the back. Alternatively, you can use a rolling pin or a brayer if you have it. Rub the spoon back and forth and apply a lot of pressure. Remember, you need to make sure the image will transfer onto the other surface.

4. Time for the reveal

monoprint result #1

Once you’re confident the ink transferred, gently separate the paper from the plate. Take it from me — getting the ink to print evenly is harder than it looks. You can see that I didn’t produce a perfect print, much to my dismay. But, that’s okay. Monoprinting is fast and easy to do. So, now that you know the process, try again!

5. Repeat the technique

painting on glass monoprint result 2

Despite producing a lot of prints, it didn’t take me that long to set up, paint and print. I was able to learn something new from each print and tweak my process at little bit. Even though I didn’t get a completely perfect print, it’s hard to expect that in any type of printmaking. I originally had a thin outline for the eyes in the print above. You can see how that turned out.

painting on glass3 monoprint result 3

Here are a few helpful tips:

  • When painting, make your lines and shapes thinner than you normally would. As you press them to paper, the ink will probably spread a little bit.
  • Think you’re done burnishing the paper? Do it for a minute or two longer for good measure. Even when I thought the image had fully transferred, it hadn’t!
  • Carefully consider your papers. I used watercolor paper that had some tooth to it. While I love this type of paper, it maybe wasn’t the best choice. A smoother paper might have made the transfer easier!
about to monoprint back of glass monoprint

Check out how the flipside of the image above looks as I’m burnishing it!

monoprint result 4 painting on glass monoprint result 5

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