The monoprint is a very versatile and immediate form of printmaking, characterised by the fact that you produce individual, unique prints as opposed to an edition of identical prints. A monoprint can be made on several different types of plates. Sheet metals such as copper or steel are common, but a sheet of thick acetate will also work well.
There are many approaches to making a monoprint. The most common is to roll a thin, even layer of ink onto the plate first and use various tools to remove areas of the ink, which will form white areas on the finished image. The plate is usually secured to an inking surface first around the edges with masking tape. Etching or relief ink is then rolled onto an inking slab with a good quality roller. The ink should be rolled out thinly and evenly. The inked roller is then gently run over the plate to transfer the ink. It can be passed several times to ensure an even coating of ink.
You can now “draw” into the ink to remove parts of it. Many tools are useful for this and you can experiment with improvising your own. Cocktail sticks are good for linear work and crosshatching. Rags and cotton buds work well for for larger open areas. Textured objects can be pressed into the ink to leave a distinctive mark. It’s possible ro get good control over a large range of tonal values in the image. The ink will take many hours to dry so as much time can be taken as you need.
When the drawing is finished the plate is ready for printing. This should be done on an etching press with a good quality printmaking paper. The plate is placed ink side up on the bed of the press, and the paper, which should be dampened and blotted, is placed on top. The blankets should be carefully placed over the plate and smoothed out. Be careful that your hands are clean when handling the blankets as they are very expensive. The press is then wound all the way through and the finished print removed from the plate and placed on a drying rack.
The plate can now be cleaned and used again. If the plate is not cleaned at this stage, a ghost image will remain which may be visible on the next image which can be interesting to exploit. An interesting variation on this technique is to roll out several different colours which can all be rolled onto various areas of the plate at different times. If extender base is added to the ink beforehand, the colours will be transparent and where they overlap many more colours will occur. You can experiment with rolling colours through paper stencils and objects like string etc for all sorts of effects. It is also possible to paint thin layers of ink directly onto the plate with a brush.