What is Monoprinting in Art? - Gel Press

What is Monoprinting in Art?

A Brief Introduction to Monoprinting

In the world of art, monoprinting stands as an intriguing technique, known for its uncontrollable nature and ability to produce unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. It's an art form that has been around for centuries yet continues to captivate and inspire artists of today. 

'Monoprint' Meaning

Monoprinting is a form of printmaking that yields a single, unique image—'mono' meaning 'one' in Greek. Unlike other printmaking methods where a matrix can produce many copies, monoprint relies on its singular nature to create pieces graced with subtly varying textures and tones. This unpredictable quality is its allure, as no two monoprints are ever the same.

When was Monoprinting Invented?

The technique itself can be traced back to the 17th-century Italian mezzotint method, informally known as the "painterly print." Over time, artists have adapted and transformed monoprinting to suit their expressive needs. Today, it is particularly favored by the modern artists for its unique ability to combine the freshness of painting with the permanence and multiple possibilities of printmaking.

Over the centuries, monoprints were utilized by a myriad of artists, most notably by the likes of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, who is often credited with being one of the first artists to make such prints.

By the 19th century, Edgar Degas brought renewed attention to monoprints, experimenting with the medium to create ethereal works that highlighted his mastery of line and shading. As the 20th century dawned, monoprinting became an avenue for expressionist artists like Paul Gauguin and Maurice Prendergast, who used the spontaneous nature of the medium to capture and convey emotion.

The advent of modernism saw artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse using monoprinting to great effect, pushing the boundaries of printmaking. Contemporary artists continue to explore the medium, using it to blend classical and modern techniques and to challenge the distinctions between various art forms.

The monoprint remains a staple in the printmaker's repertoire, celebrated for its unique blend of print and painting, control and serendipity.

How to do Monoprinting

Undoubtedly, the most captivating aspect of monoprinting is the spontaneity it offers. Every step of the process has the potential for creative surprises, from preparing the glass plate to pulling the print.

Basic Monoprinting Process:

Monoprinting can be as simple as applying ink to a plate and pressing it onto paper, or as elaborate as adding and subtracting ink using various tools before the final pull. The hand-pressing step adds to the personal touch that each monoprint carries.

Tools and Materials for Monoprinting

To start your monoprinting journey, you'll need a few minimal supplies and tools. Here's a list of what you'll need and their purposes:

  1. Flat, smooth surface: A plate is key for monoprinting. It provides a stable and even platform for creating your prints. To use the plate, apply ink or paint onto its surface and then transfer it onto the paper.
  2. Ink or paint: Choose ink or paint specifically made for monoprinting. These will have the right consistency and drying time for the technique. Apply the ink or paint onto the plate and use brushes to create textures and effects.
  3. Brushes: Have a variety of brushes on hand. Different brush types and sizes can create various textures and effects in your prints. Use the brushes to apply ink or paint onto the plate or paper.
  4. Paper: Select sturdy and absorbent paper that can handle the ink without tearing or warping. Printmaking paper or heavy cardstock are good options. Place the paper on top of the plate with the ink/paint, and apply pressure to transfer the image onto the paper.

Additional tools and materials that can enhance your monoprinting experience include:

  • Brayers: A brayer is a roller used to evenly distribute the ink or paint onto the printing surface. It helps create smooth and consistent coverage.
  • Lithographic ink: While not necessary for beginners, lithographic ink is a specialized type of ink that can produce high-quality prints with fine details.

Feel free to experiment and substitute materials based on what you have available. Monoprinting allows for creative exploration and unique results. 


Monoprinting stands as a testament to the individuality and creative freedom that defines the artistic spirit. Each print is a conversation between the artist and their medium, marked by the spontaneity of the moment and the unique touch of the creator's hand.

Whether you are an artist seeking a novel expression or an admirer of the craft, monoprinting offers a window into the nuance of printmaking and the joy of artistic discovery.

As you embark on your own monoprinting endeavors, embrace the imperfections and the surprises—the essence of what makes each monoprint not just a piece of art, but a singular story told in ink and paper.

Enjoy your monoprinting journey!