Monoprinting with GOLDEN Acrylics

Application Description
Surface Considerations
Mixing Monoprinting Paints
Acrylic Mixtures
Paint Application
Preparing the Paper
Transferring the Image


The process of "Monoprinting" is an art form that has been practiced for many years. The process involves making "one of a kind" prints by manipulating paints on a non-porous surface and transferring them to paper stock. Recent developments in Acrylic Paint technology has allowed artists to extend paint "working time," giving greater control in monoprinting with water-based media.


Application Description

Monoprinting is a very loose style of creating printed images. Almost any kind of paint can be used to create a monoprint. Generally, the paint is applied with a brush, roller, or other application device (including fingers) onto a non-porous surface. The surface can be a glass or marble slab, or a hard plastic or Formica tabletop. Once the image is to the artist's liking, paper is carefully laid on top. Using the heel of the hand to apply even pressure, the paint is transferred from the surface to the paper, and then peeled up and allowed to dry. The surface is wiped clean and the process starts over.

This technique allows artists to freely create prints without having to develop silk-screens, engraved plates, woodblocks or other printmaking devices in order to create a print. However, this process does not allow for multiple prints to be made that are exact copies. Monoprinting can be a useful way to create art or develop ideas for other printing methods.

Surface Considerations
Almost any smooth, non-porous surface can be used to develop a monoprint image. Be careful to choose a surface that will not stain or be otherwise affected by paint, water, or other cleaning products and processes. Most monoprinters use a glass, metal or marble plate on a table. Hard acrylic sheets or Formica countertop material will also suffice, but acrylics have a greater tendency to stick to these surfaces, especially if they are allowed to dry.

If a printing press (like those used for wood block printing) is going to be used, the material must be flexible enough not to crack as pressure is applied. An acrylic sheet like Plexiglas® or Acrylite® will be able to resist this pressure, up to a point. A thin metal plate would also suffice.

For a hand-rubbed print, glass or marble works very well. Local glass houses often have sheets of plate glass that were cut incorrectly, which they sell for good prices. Be sure to have them round the edges to minimize the risk of injury. Place a sheet of white paper underneath the glass to better show what the print will look like. Darker surfaces will not allow a true image of the print. Glass and marble are also very easy to clean with a razor scraper if the acrylic paint dries on them.

If a translucent surface is used, the artist can also put a sketch, photograph, or other reference material, directly under where they are applying paint. Keep in mind that printing gives a mirror image of what is applied to the surface, so lettering needs to be reversed to make it legible.
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Mixing Monoprinting Paints

Monoprinting with Oil Paints, Printing Inks and Acrylics:
Because of their slow drying characteristics, artist oil paints would seem ideal for monotype. However, the linseed oil will break down the wood fiber and rag content in the pulp, causing it to yellow and eventually decompose1. Many of the earlier prints that were made by artists have not survived because of this. The quick absorption of the linseed oil into the paper will cause the oil paint to rapidly become brittle and eventually it will crack and delaminate. A heavy, high-quality cotton rag paper (such as a 200 lb. watercolor stock) would perform much better for oil paint monoprinting, but the long term archival-ness would still be questionable.

Lithography inks or other printing inks have generally been the main media for monoprints, but they too have drawbacks and limitations. The main vehicle (what carries the pigment) used in oil inks is a quick-drying linseed oil, which can be blended with driers, greases, waxes, solvents, anti-skinning agents, or other extenders2. Resin-solvent inks have a resin-solvent varnish as the vehicle. They too can have various extenders, driers, and other modifiers added to them. Most litho inks are developed with a combination of varnishes. An "oil varnish" is mixed with a "resin-solvent" varnish. Depending on the use of the ink, an alkyd varnish can also be included.

Although these inks can work quite well for monoprinting, they must be blended with volatile solvents for better workability. Most of these solvents are flammable and emit offensive vapors. Obviously, these inks are made for printing onto paper, and are somewhat archival, but thicker applications (of the kind that are applied during monoprinting) can result in tacky, slow drying prints. Working with these inks for most artists would be difficult and potentially hazardous, especially without proper ventilation.

Regular acrylic paints, such as GOLDEN Fluids or Heavy Body Acrylics, typically dry too fast for a monoprint. By the time even quick images are ready to print, they are already becoming tacky, which results in poor printing. GOLDEN Retarder will aid in slowing down the drying, but requires more blending with mediums and water to get a satisfactory paint mix. Although it is possible to make good "inks" for monoprinting with these combinations, extensive testing and experimentation is required to produce repeated positive results.
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Acrylic Mixtures
GOLDEN Artist Colors currently makes several slow-drying additives and acrylic mediums that can work quite well for monoprinting:

Retarder:
GOLDEN Retarder is a slow-drying additive that can be blended with acrylic paints, gels and mediums. It allows an artist more control over the amount of retardance rate of their mixtures. To reduce the chance of any adverse film formation issues, we recommend adding no more than 15% GOLDEN Retarder to a paint mixture. However, because the monoprinting image is usually transferred to an absorbent paper, the normal concerns of adding too much Retarder to a mix is less of an issue.

To create inks that have a greater translucency and adequate open time, approach the mixtures in a two-step manner. Begin by blending either the Heavy Body or Fluid Acrylics with GOLDEN Polymer Medium, Matte Medium, or GAC 100, 500, 700, & 800, to achieve the desired translucency and brushing quality. Then begin to add in the Retarder at increments of approximately 5-10% of the entire volume of the mixture. The amount of Retarder should allow just enough working time to achieve the print.

Silk-Screen Medium:
GOLDEN Silk-Screen Medium was developed for blending with the Fluid and Heavy Body paints to make a silk-screen ink that minimizes drying in the screen. This product also works quite well for monoprinting because the working properties needed are similar. Blends of equal parts paint to Silk-Screen Medium are a good starting point. Increase or reduce the amount of medium to paint as needed. For additional instruction, refer to the GOLDEN Product Information Sheet on Silk-Screen Medium.

Acrylic Glazing Liquid:
GOLDEN Acrylic Glazing Liquid was made for interior decorative and faux finishing. It is also proven to be quite useful in fine art applications when a slower drying paint is needed. Equal blends of paint to Glazing Liquid are suggested to begin with, then adjust as needed for desired transparency. Acrylic Glazing Liquid differs from straight Retarder because it is a mix of Retarder, acrylic and water that forms a film by itself. This means that artists can add as much medium as they desire without the concern of poor film formation. The freedom allows the artist to concentrate on creating art instead of worrying about blending concerns. Refer to the GOLDEN Information Sheet on Acrylic Glazing Liquid for further details and suggestions.

GOLDEN Glazes:
GOLDEN Glazes are premade decorative/fine art glazes based on the Acrylic Glazing Liquid formula. Most colors are approximately a 10:1 blend of Acrylic Glazing Liquid to Heavy Body Paint (respectively). Metallic (Iridescent) and Opalescent (Interference) colors are approximately 3:1. They can be used as is or blended with other glaze colors or acrylic paints and do not require any adjustments to achieve maximum open time. Brochures on the glazes are available upon request.
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Paint Application

Taping off Working Area:
Before applying any paint, tape off an area on the working surface (glass, marble, etc.) approximately one inch larger on all sides than the paper to be used. This will make composing the print area much easier. If the surface is translucent, as with glass or clear acrylic sheeting, the work area can be sectioned off from underneath.

Film Thickness:
It is important not to apply paint too thickly, as the image will not transfer as cleanly. With some experimentation, an understanding of the amount of paint required will develop. This understanding is extremely important when several layers of paint are applied for one print. Any thickness that appears as being thicker than a normal brush stroke will most likely smear as it is transferred to the paper.

Wet in Wet Applications:
For even easier blending, apply a colorless layer of Silk-Screen Medium or Acrylic Glazing Liquid to the surface before any paint additions. This can allow for stronger, undiluted colors to be applied and manipulated without drying too quickly.
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Preparing the Paper

Selecting the Paper:
Without going too deeply into the question of what type of paper should be used to create fine art, it is important to know what makes a paper archival. This becomes critical when the artist has done enough experimentation and is ready to focus on creating fine art with the monotype process.

Modern, "archival" papers, used for artwork and high quality publications, are made with high "rag" content. This means that they are produced from cotton rather than wood pulp. Newsprint is made from wood pulp, which fades and crumbles very rapidly. Watercolor paper is typically made from rag fibers, which break down much more slowly3.

"Acid-Free" is another important attribute of an archival paper. Paper that is made with an inherently high acidity (such as those produced with alum) will break down even under ideal, ambient conditions. Today, manufacturers of high quality papers produce papers that are slightly alkaline, which serves to buffer the paper from the harsh acidic environmental factors, especially smog and acid rain.

Preparing the Paper for Monoprinting:
Traditionally, dampening the paper is required to allow it to easily pull away from the surface. It can keep the paper from adhering to the printing "block", as fast drying inks tend to make excellent glues. When monoprinting with slow drying acrylic mediums, it is not necessary. However, some types of paper or conditions may require it.
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Transferring the Image

Applying the Paper:
Once the image is complete, quickly, but carefully lay the paper onto the surface. Be sure to not move or re-position the paper once it has made initial contact. For larger prints, slightly bow the paper and let the center make first contact with the surface. Then allow it to flatten naturally, which will reduce the chance of an air pocket developing.

Rubbing or Pressing the Image:
There are several methods that may be employed for this procedure. The simplest manner is to gently rub with the palm or heel of the hand in a gentle circular motion. Laying a cloth down first can even out the pressure to create a more uniform print.

A brayer roller, used in printing to pick up ink, can also work well to evenly press the paper down. Gently roll across the paper, increasing pressure slightly after the print has been throughly pressed initially.

A manual printing press can also be used for the mentioned monoprinting techniques, although pressure normally used for wood block or other methods of printing can be excessive for a monoprint. Test which amount of pressure seems to work best for different equipment.

Pulling the Print from the Surface:
To avoid moving the print while lifting, use one hand to secure a corner and the other to pull up from the opposite corner. Being careful not to touch the image, place it face up onto a drying rack or wherever the print can dry undisturbed.

Allow proper drying (all ink loses it's tack) before further handling. Do not stack prints directly on each other. The acrylic paint can act as a glue and adhere it to the back of another print.

Refer to the GOLDEN Varnishing Information if the piece is to be displayed openly, as the paper would have to be properly sealed and varnished to protect it. Otherwise, treat the print as one would any other fine art print or watercolor.
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