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Adding Colored Pencil to Monotype Print Portraits

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This is a post from Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.

Colored Pencils to the Rescue

Have you ever added colored pencil to your monotype prints? (If you’ve never made a monotype, read on…) Whether your subject is portraits, abstract, still life or landscape, adding colored pencil will transform a mediocre print into a monotype jubilee.

I’m not kidding. If you have a stash of old monotypes you were less than thrilled with, pull one out, and abracadabra your oh-well into that’s-what-I’m-talking-about Glorious. Just add colored pencils.

This monotype was made on a copper plate coated in a thin layer of Charbonnel Aquawash Intaglio ink, rolled on the plate evenly with a brayer.

Monotype Inspiration

The reference for this monotype was a tiny, mid 1940′s photo of my mother on a new bike. Her name isn’t Betty, but in cycling lingo, the term is used to refer to a girl who is a novice biker.

For the record, I’m a Betty too. My bike is hanging, dusty and neglected, on a wall in the garage, while I play with art supplies in the studio.

Vintage family photos are perfect resources for monotype prints. The cameras in the mid 1940′s were mostly black and white, and details were reduced to shadow-shapes that lend themselves well to monotype prints. Plus, the people in the photos are your tribe. :)

Mixing a small amount of Charbonnel Intaglio ink on a glass or plexiglass surface with a spatula does two things: it blends the particles in the pigment with the ink base for an even distribution. Doing this will help reduce the oily “halo” affect around your finished prints. It also “warms” the ink with friction, so it’s softer and more pliable to work with.

Read More About Monotype Prints

  • This monotype print tutorial will introduce you to the basics of making a dark field monotype print without the need for a press.
  • When you create a monotype print, you often have enough ink left on the plate to pull a second, faint version of the first monotype. These soft, transparent siblings of the original image are perfect candidates for colored pencil or watercolor enhancements, and they’re called monotype ghost prints.
  • If you’re on Facebook, be sure to join the Monotype Printmaking Group, as there are lots of helpful posts, inspiring images and shared How-To’s.

Rolling intaglio ink onto your plate (this is Dura-Lar) with a brayer to make a monotype ensures a thin, even layer of ink.

What to Use as a Monotype Plate

I used a scrap of copper discarded by another printmaker for this print, but you can use a monotype plate made from lots of different materials:

  • a sheet of plexiglass (also called perspex, acrylite, lexan or acrylic in other parts of the world)
  • a pane of glass, like one borrowed from a picture frame, a glass shelf or a mirror. (But only if you’re printing by hand, and not on a press. It’s also a wise to attach duck tape [this zebra print duct tape is my fave] around the edges of the glass to avoid cutting yourself.)
  • a piece of Yupo paper – this is watercolor paper made from 100% polypropylene. The surface is white, waterproof, strong and slick.
  • a sheet of Dura-Lar drafting film – this surface is a mix of Acetate and mylar, made from polyester. The clear sheets make flexible, very durable printmaking plates.

A light sketch in the wet ink – followed by clearing ink off the plate in a subtractive process with the tip of a pastel blending stomp.

The image is wiped, scraped and dabbed out of the ink, using spear-tipped cotton swabs, blending stomps and finger tips. It’s a bit like finger painting, but instead of adding pigments, it’s a subtractive process.
Think of it like you’re carving light from a dark field.

The monotype portrait print, hanging in the studio to dry. The ghost print of the image is peeking out just to the right.

Adding Colored Pencil to Your Monotype Print

Once the ink is dry on your monotype portrait print, you can have so much fun adding colored pencil!

The pigments in most colored pencils are wax based, mixed with differing ratios of powdered color and binding agents. A good pencil’s core color will adhere to intaglio printmaking ink like chalk on a black board. The higher the pigment load in the core, the more color you’ll see on the ink.

For the past two decades, I’ve used a mix of Prismacolor Pencils, and Caran D’Ache Luminescent Pencils. I still have pencils from the original set I bought in 1999, and they adhere beautifully and brightly to most printmaking inks. They are one of my favorite art supplies for enhancing monotypes and watercolors. (Here is a post about using colored pencils to repair watercolors.)

After the ink was dry, I added colored pencil.

Monotype and Colored Pencil

I hope you’ll try mixing your printmaking with other media. Especially if you felt the prints in your stash were not up to snuff.

During this time of staying in, and staying safe from Covidi19, an evening spent immersed in adventures with boldly applied color on an old piece of art could be just the thing to make you smile. And it might even be habit-forming!

If you have any questions about this process, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks for your visit, and I’ll see you in the next post.

Be adventurous,


P.S. The How to Make a Monotype Print instructions below might be helpful.

[mv_create key="6" type="diy" title="How to Make a Monotype Print" thumbnail=""]

Betty 10.5 x 3.5 Monotype Print Portrait with colored pencil added (Sold)

Art Quote

I devoted free moments, particularly evenings, to etchings, both reproductions of paintings and directly from life. I attached little importance to this pursuit, but was entertained by the surprises inherent in this game of chance, that lines that I incised with a steel needle on a treated black copper plate became light red against a dark background, and when printed would be black on a white field, and reverse to boot; it was like playing blind-man’s bluff, a game which delighted me then, and still delights me now. ~Anders Zorn (1860-1920)

Anders Zorn (1860-1920)

Scout the Studio Cat invites you to watch Six Tips to paint More Often.

The post Adding Colored Pencil to Monotype Print Portraits appeared first on Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.


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