The terms monotype and monoprint represent two distinct processes used to create unique, one-of-a-kind prints.

A unique print is a one-of-a-kind transfer of an inked or painted image on a surface/substrate to paper or another receiving surface, that cannot be exactly duplicated. The ink or paint may be transferred with hand pressure or by means of an etching press. If there is enough ink or paint residue left on the surface, sometimes a second, lighter print is pulled, called a ‘ghost’.  Unique prints stand in contrast to editioned prints, in which each print in the edition is identical. Unique prints may be denoted by the words “monotype” or “monoprint” or by the symbol “1/1”.

A MONOTYPE is a painting/drawing/inking on a surface/substrate that is transferred to paper or another receiving surface. A monotype is not repeatable as it allows only one pull of the original image elements, perhaps followed by a ghost print.

A MONOPRINT contains some lines or images that can be repeated from one impression to the next, such as etched lines, a linocut or a lithograph, however the artist also varies the inking, composition and other elements to create a print that is not repeatable.

Both monotypes and monoprints often pass through the press multiple times, to add additional ink and imagery to the print, thus building beautiful layers of form, color, texture, and line – and sometimes monotype and monoprint techniques are combined within in a single print.

There are three principle monotype methods:

  • The additive or light-field method, whereby the artist paints/inks the image onto the plate with brushes and rollers;
  • The subtractive or dark-field method, whereby the artist covers the entire plate with pigment and then removes some of the pigment with brushes, rags, sticks, or other tools to create the image; and
  • A combination of the two techniques, whereby the artist works back-and-forth, adding and removing pigment from the plate as the image is developed.

The tools and materials used to create monotypes and monoprints are virtually endless, from paint brushes to beach grass, from q-tips to finger tips, from palette knives to wooden spoons. Prints are sometimes enhanced with collage materials, or worked into with direct and trace drawing or painting on the printed surface. Sometimes stencils are used, created from such things as leaves, fabric, or even rubber gaskets, to add shape and texture. The technical possibilities are endless and the results, when combined with the individual artist’s vision, are quite diverse and exciting!