monoprint   magic

By Jennie Lennick

Learn the Basics of DIY Monoprinting 

Monoprinting is a printmaking technique that involves creating a unique print instead of a series of identical images. This blog covers making monoprints using a Gel Printing plate, a soft and squishy surface used to apply ink, paint, and collaged materials to make individual prints.

Monoprinting is exciting because it allows a printmaker to switch up imagery print after print to make a variable edition of unique images! Changing your mind is beautiful! Monoprinting will allow you to collage materials on your printing plate and change them after each print. I was surprised and delighted with my pieces!  

This tutorial covers how to use a Gel Printing block, dried flowers, and block printing ink to create monoprints.  

In this tutorial, I cover the following steps: 

  1. How to prepare your gel plate for printing. 
  2. How to ink your plate and when to add an ink retarder. 
  3. How to properly roll out ink. 
  4. How to pull a print. 
  5. Tips for choosing and placing artifacts. 
  6. How to make a secondary print.

Use this technique for fine art prints and card making! This project is perfect for the home-based printmaker because no printing presses or special equipment is required! Try this art form with kids! It's a lot of fun to collect artifacts and see how they turn out printed.

Materials List:

Step 1: Prepare Your Gel Plate

Gel plates are soft, squishy, and a little sticky! They come packaged with a piece of mylar film on each side of the plate to protect it. 

With clean hands, remove the film from each side of the plate. 

Set the film aside for later use. Do not discard! Once you are done printing, wash your plate with mild soap and water, dry, and reapply the films. You can store your gel plate in its packaging for safety and convenience! 

Step 2: Ink Your Plate

Add a dime-size amount of ink to the center of your gel plate. 

Consider using an ink retarder if you live in a warm and dry environment. It slows down the drying process, and you can manipulate your ink for a more extended amount of time.

If using retarder, apply a small amount. I used about the diameter of a pea for my plate size.

Step 3: Roll Out Ink

Rolling out ink is cathartic! I love it. 

Start at the top of your plate and roll the brayer pulling towards you to get an even roll. Do not apply pressure down. The roller should be able to move freely and easily.  

Once you reach the bottom of the plate, lift the roller and place it back at the top. This technique ensures that ink is evenly distributed to the entire plate. 

Switch directions to ensure there is an even coating over the whole plate.  

Stop once your plate is entirely covered.  Your ink coverage should resemble the skin of a peach- nice and soft. 

Step 4: Create a Base Print

Center a piece of paper over your plate. 

Carefully smooth the paper with your hands. You want your paper to stick to your plate.

Use a baren to apply even pressure all over your plate. Slide the baren over the paper while pushing down with both hands. If you don't have a baren, you can use the back of a large wooden spoon.

Carefully lift your paper and set it aside.

I want to add a second layer of color to my print, so I will add a little yellow and a little more ink retarder to my plate.

Use your baren to roll out your ink as you did in Step 2.

You can continue rolling out your ink until it's an even, solid color, or leave it streaky! I love the texture I created by mixing yellow and blue.

Step 5: Place Your Artifacts

Once you ink your plate with your new color, place your artifacts. I am using dried flowers for my print.  

Make sure the artifacts you choose are primarily flat. If they have too much texture or are very sharp, they can rip your paper. Some ideas for mono-printing artifacts are:

  • Dried flowers
  • Fresh, flat leaves
  • Lace
  • Paper cutouts
  • String
  • Confetti
  • Stencils

You can also create a painting directly on your plate and print from that! 

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Step 6: Print Your Artifacts

Take your first print and recenter it over your plate.

Carefully position the paper.

Smooth the paper with your hands being careful not to move the artifacts underneath. 

Use your baren or wooden spoon to rub the back of your paper, transitioning the ink from the plate to your paper.

Carefully peel off your print. Beautiful!

Step 7: Make A Secondary Print

Part of the fun of mono printing is making secondary prints!

Carefully remove your artifacts. I used tweezers to assist.

Place a new piece of paper on your plate and rub it with your baren. 

Pull your print. I love all the exciting textures I was able to obtain!

Look at the difference between my two prints! They are so unique but work together in a series.

Continue pulling prints! Add more ink, reposition your artifacts, and see what you get! I hope you are delighted and surprised by this project! 

When you're finished printing, wash your plate, reapply the films, and store them until your next creative session. Allow your prints to dry flat. They will dry very quickly.  

Need some mono-printing and gel printing inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board full of printmaking project ideas!  










Want more printmaking DIYs? Check out these colorful tutorials:


Designer, entrepreneur, and lover of crafts! Boss Lady at Jenny Lemons in San Francisco, California. 


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