I’ve been working on monotypes and trying to use just four process colors—yellow, magenta, cyan, and black—to create my images. Monotypes are one-of-a-kind prints and can be printed by hand or with a press. Since I’m doing this at home and don’t have access to a press, I’m printing by hand using a PinPress, a press that looks like a long rolling pin with crescent-shaped handles. There may be more efficient ways to do monotypes but this is what worked for me at the time.
Summary: Use intaglio inks on a single Plexiglas plate to do multiple color prints on one sheet of dry printing paper. To do process color monotype, start with yellow ink, remove yellow in unwanted areas, and then print. Then do the same using red, blue, and black inks.
-1/4″ tempered glass for inking and another for printing, both 13″x17″ (a specialty glass company will usually cut any size you specify)
-3/4″ plywood, 13″X17″ to place under glass for printing (optional)
-1/4″ polycarbonate plastic plate, 8″x10″ (plastic-supply houses will cut large sheets to size for you) or use any available Plexiglas
–PinPress, 24″, 8 lbs (optional) or use back of a spoon, rolling pin, block-printing baren, and so forth
-1/4″ Felt blanket, 12″x26″ (optional)
–Akua Intaglio inks or other intaglio inks (Hansa Yellow, Crimson Red, Phthalo Blue, Carbon Black)
-Akua Intaglio Retarder, Akua Intaglio Modifier Release Agent (optional)
-Arches 88 paper or other printing paper (Arches can be used dry)
-Artograph Light Pad, 9″x12″, or other light box (optional)
-Miscellaneous: Sharpie pen, Sharpie Peel Off China Markers or grease pens, watercolor palette, Speedball 2″ soft brayer, palette knife, masking tape)
-Cleanup: Spray bottle with water and some dish soap, cotton swabs, old phone book, paper towels, rags
Registration: Before you start, tear your paper to size (11″x14″), mark the back, and then set up your registration. Your registration marks on a piece of paper should be 11″x14″. Draw your plate marks centered within the 11″x14″ markings with more space at the bottom. For example, for an 8″x10″ plate, the border would be 1 1/2″ all around and 2 1/2″ at the bottom. You can place the plate on top of the paper and use a Sharpie pen to mark all around the edges so that it can be seen clearly.
Printing setup: Plywood at the bottom, paper with registration on top, and glass on top of the paper. First put your printing paper on top of the glass and align it with the 11″x14″ registration. Put masking tape on the left side of the paper to hinge it.
The following is a step-by-step monotype printmaking process using just four colors.
1. Draw and color an image (owl) on the back of a 1/16″ plexiglass plate (8″x10″ here) with grease pencils (yellow, red, blue, black). Write text (owl) in the clear area. You will be inking the other side of the plate and the text will appear reversed so that you know you are on the inking side.
2. Ink the side of the plate that spells “owl” reversed with Hansa Yellow. Place the plate with ink side up on a light box so that you can see the colors on the back of the plate. With cotton swabs, you can now remove yellow where you want white, red, blue, or purple to appear. Everything else will be yellow, orange, green, or brown.
3. Spray some water on top of the registration glass before printing the yellow plate. The plate will adhere to the glass due to surface tension by gently moving the plate back and forth until it sticks. Make sure the plate aligns with the Sharpie edges. You can now hinge your printing paper and then lay it gently on top of the plate.
4. Starting in the middle of the plate with the shorter side facing you, gently roll the PinPress up to the top without going over the edge and do the same moving towards the bottom of the plate just to tack the paper to the plate. At this point, you can use the same procedure but with more pressure. Move so that the longer side of the paper is facing you and then do the same procedure. You can check the print by holding one hand flat on the paper, and lifting an edge of the paper. You can use a press felt or wool blanket on top of the paper for added pressure but this is optional.
5. Lift the hinged paper and you should have a yellow print. In this case, I had some blue ink in my yellow ink so it mixed and showed up as green. No worries here because it will be covered up with the next few printings.
6. Clean off the yellow from the plate. Now roll on Crimson Red and then since there is not a lot of red, use a rag to wipe it off the owl but leave the background alone. Use a cotton swab to add red to the areas on the plate that show up as red. Just for your information, you want to remove red where you want white, yellow, blue, or green. Everything else will show up as red, orange, purple, or brown.
7. Spray the glass with a little water so that the red plate will stick to the glass. Then make sure the plate aligns with the Sharpie edges. Use the PinPress and print the red plate. Notice how the red covered up the green from the previous print.
8. At this stage, the ink is beginning to become a little tacky. You can add some modifier release agent to the plate for easier release of the ink or a drop of retarder to the ink. The release agent also helps to clean all of the ink off the plate.
9. Go through the same inking process with the Phthalo Blue ink. Here I have decided to remove a little more blue after looking at the red and yellow print just to make sure the blue doesn’t cover up too much of the other colors. You want to remove blue where you want white, yellow, red, and orange. Everything else will show up as blue, green, purple, or brown.
10. Again spray water on the glass and center the blue plate. Print the plate and pull back the hinged paper.
11. The last color is black, which makes the print a true four-color process print. Depending on how much black is used, it can subdue, darken, bring out the other colors, and sometimes unify the image. Remove black from the white areas and any area that you don’t want to be too dark.
12. I thought the black subdued the yellow in the eyes too much so I painted some yellow back in with a cotton swab.