Monoprints vs Monotypes

Monoprints are prints made using an etched plate, but inked in different ways.  Not to be confused with monotypes, which do not generally use a plate or matrix, monoprints can be made in variable editions – meaning made the same but with some differences among each print in the edition – or one-of-a-kind, like monotypes.  Monotypes differ from Monoprints in that there is no matrix, and is more freeform where ink is applied directly to a piece of unetched plexiglass or other material and printed.  Some monotype techniques include using mylar or other material to mask off and even pick up ink from certain areas of the plate for subsequent monotype printings.  Monotypes are truly one-of-a-kind pieces since there is no “permanent” plate matrix, and none of the forms and color blending can really be repeated the same way again.  They are, in effect, paintings done on a press.

Snapdragon 2 - monotype by Jon Lybrook

Snapdragon II – monotype by Jon Lybrook courtesy of the Will Witman collection.

Recently I met printmaker Julia Lucey from California who works exclusively with monoprints using traditionally etched copper plates.  Her etchings alone are wonderfully rich and detailed, but she doesn’t stop there.  She layers her prints with multiple plate impressions creating a cubist-like ensemble of pieces that make up the whole.

Julia Lucey Monoprint

Julia Lucey Monoprint

Julia gives a succinct explanation of traditional copperplate etching on her website.


Anti-Devil Monoprint by Jon Lybrook

Photogravure Polymer plates can likewise be used for monoprints in this same manner.  This piece was done all on one plate, which I first wiped clean with blank ink, then effectively painted over using colored inks.  Unlike traditional etching, photoshop can be used to superimpose or manipulate the artwork before the plate is made. This is also considered one of the disadvantages of polymer in that it is difficult to do much to rework the plate with much precision once it has been created because it is made of plastic. Still, there are things one can do with polymer for creative effects, such as scratching it with sandpaper, mottling it with water, or “drawing” into it with a soldering iron.

When it comes to monoprints vs monotypes, the bottom line is they are both beautiful printmaking techniques.  It’s just a matter of whether or not the printmaker wishes to use or reuse an etched, drypoint, or polymer photogravure plate.