5 Ways Monoprinting and Relief Printing are Similar - Gel Press

5 Ways Monoprinting and Relief Printing are Similar

How are Monoprinting and Relief Printing Similar?

Delving into the world of printmaking as a beginner can be an exciting but slightly overwhelming experience. There's an array of techniques, each with its own set of quirks and benefits, and it's often tricky to figure out where to start.

For many newcomers, the stark differences between various printmaking styles can be a source of confusion. However, beneath the unique veneers of each method, you'll often find remarkable similarities that can demystify the art and reveal a harmonious world of potential for your creative print explorations.

Monoprinting and relief printing are two such techniques that, at first glance, may seem worlds apart, yet stand on shared fundamental principles.

In this listicle, we'll illuminate five key ways these two prominent printmaking methods are surprisingly alike, providing a bridge for printmaking beginners to cross from one technique to the other.

1. Technique

The process of transferring an image from one surface to another is fundamental to both monoprinting and relief printing. However, the way each technique approaches this transfer is different.


In monoprinting, the artist utilizes a smooth, non-porous surface like a plexiglass plate or a gelli plate. Using various tools such as brushes, rollers, or even fingers, the ink is manipulated into the desired image directly onto the plate. Each print is unique as the artist can change the inked image before pressing the paper onto the plate, creating a 'mono' or singular impression.

Relief Printing

Relief printing, on the other hand, is a more structured approach. The image is carved into a material such as wood or linoleum, leaving raised areas to hold the ink. The image remains consistent on the block, and prints are made by applying pressure to transfer this static image onto paper, often creating multiple editions.

2. Materials

Despite their array of tools and mediums, the base materials used for both monoprinting and relief printing are relatively simple and bake the foundation for the entire artistic process.

Common Materials

Both monoprinting and relief printing rely on a select few essential items: ink, paper, and a tool for applying pressure, such as a printing press or gel plate. In monoprinting, this includes the plate, while relief printers work with blocks, traditionally made from linoleum or wood.

By stripping away the complexity of additional items, beginners can focus on mastery of these essential materials, understanding their nuances, and how they interact to create a print.

3. Printing Surface

The surfaces used in monoprinting and relief printing play a crucial role in shaping the type of image that gets transferred onto the paper.

Relief Printing Surface

In relief printing, the carving of the block determines the parts of the image that will receive ink and thus be visible on the final print. Artists can achieve fine details by intricately carving areas or embrace the simplicity of bold shapes and lines with a more straightforward approach.

Monoprinting Surface

Monoprinting's freedom comes from its very nature. Since the plate can be re-inked and modified between prints, the artist can experiment with a variety of textures and shapes in the same session. The pliability of the monoprinting surface means that artists often take a more fluid approach, creating impromptu and often unpredictable outcomes.

4. Ink Application

Applying ink is a crucial step in both monoprinting and relief printing, and the methods by which it is done have interesting parallels.

How Ink is Applied

In relief printing, ink is usually rolled or brayered onto the block, ensuring that it only adheres to the raised areas. Any depressions or carved elements of the block should remain ink-free, creating a crisp distinction between the printed image and the white space.

Monoprinting, using a pressure system similar to the relief printing press, typically employs rollers, brayers, brushes, or the hands to move and spread ink on the smooth surface. This can lead to ink being spread across the entire printing plate or strategically placed and allows for a variety of mark-making techniques.

5. Unique Results

While both monoprinting and relief printing share commonalities in their creation process, the end results are where their unique characters shine.

Distinct Outcomes

Relief printing offers the potential for an edition of identical prints, each maintaining the image's integrity and consistent quality, albeit with variances based on the human element. Monoprinting, with its focus on one-of-a-kind impressions, results in a series of unique artworks that may share elements but offer a different experience with each piece.

Even so, both techniques surprise with their versatility. They can produce artwork ranging from the detailed and planned precision of a relief print to the spontaneous and varied expressions of monoprints that capture the energy of the moment.


In conclusion, when exploring the juxtaposition between monoprinting and relief printing, it becomes apparent that the distinctions that define each technique—the level of control, the repeatability of the images, and the working space's physical nature—also highlight the core essence that both methods hold dear: creativity through manipulation, experimentation, and the transfer of unique visual content.

Recognizing these parallels can foster a deeper connection to both practices, enriching your journey into the colorful world of printmaking. Whether you decide to pursue monoprinting's spontaneity or the restrained elegance of relief printing, the shared concepts you've uncovered will serve as a source of inspiration, guiding your hand as you create prints that are more than unique—they're your own.