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Refining Details on Monotype Prints with Colored Pencils

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

color monotype pf a girl and her dog

Colored Pencils Enhance Monotype Prints

Have you ever added colored pencil to your refine parts of your monotype prints? (If you’ve never made a monotype, here is an introduction to dark field monotype prints without a press.)

Whether your subject is portraits, abstract, still life, or landscape, adding colored pencil will transform a mediocre print into a monotype jubilee. You can add color and enhance details to just a little of your monotype, or the entire print. You get to be the Boss. Because it’s Your Art.

I’m serious – you’ve got to give it a try. If you have a stash of old monotypes you were less than thrilled with, pull one out, and abracadabra – take your oh-well print, and transform it into a that’s-what-I’m-talking-about sheet of Glorious. Just add colored pencils. (Or any other media you’d love to layer upon the ink.)

Using Akua Liquid Pigments to paint a loose portrait of a girl and her dog on a sheet of plastic from a report cover

Monotype from Recycled Plastic

I have several colors of Akua Liquid Pigments – from back in the day – before Speedball owned the company. Despite their age, they work very well for light field, full-color monotype prints.

Everyone is still stuck at home, so we find art supplies in the stuff we already have, right? I snipped the front off a plastic report cover to use it as a plate for this monotype. You can see marks on the acetate sheet, where I used it as a registration jig template for some smaller test prints.

Enough detail in the pigments to press and pull the print. (By the way, this is a Light Field Monotype Print.)

Using Plastic Report Covers as Monotype Plates

For this portrait of a girl and her dog, I painted Akua liquid pigment with bristle brushes directly on the report cover, after washing it with dish soap (and drying it thoroughly with paper towels) to ensure there were no oily fingerprints to repel the ink.

This monotype was not planned. It was late at night, spontaneous, and painted quickly, just before bedtime. Do you ever do that? Get sucked into the rabbit hole of one-more-piece-of-art before the end of the day? It feels a little sneaky and rushed. :)

I supported the inked plastic report cover on a sheet of mat board and pressed a sheet of BFK Rives heavyweight paper against the pigments with a metal spoon. A lot. And it didn’t transfer.

Matching the Right Printmaking Paper for Hand Transfer of Monotype Prints

I used a metal spoon to rub a sheet of BFK Rived printmaking paper into my quickly scumbled monotype. I rubbed and rubbed, and when I pulled the print, there was almost *no ink transfer*. Ugh.

To be fair, I know heavyweight paper doesn’t transfer as well when you’re rubbing a monotype print by hand. BFK Rives 175 gsm does a beautiful job on a press. And yes, I have a press, but I wanted to make this monotype the same way you will, without a press.

As you can see in the photo above, it just didn’t work.

So I tried again with a sheet of BFK Rives 115 gsm, and I could see the ink transferring as I rubbed. Moral of the story: when doing hand transfer monotypes, use lightweight printmaking paper.

The results of another try with a sheet of lightweight (115 gsm) BFK Rives printmaking paper. I spritzed the paper very lightly with cool water and blotted it completely before laying the paper damp-side down onto the pigments. The monotype had a little pigment bleed and some feathering (one of the characteristics of liquid pigments if you dare to use damp paper, so proceed with caution.)

What to Use as a Monotype Plate

I used a sheet of clear acetate snipped from a report cover 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 from a photo frame, a glass shelf, or a mirror. (But only if you’re printing by hand, and not on a press. It’s also wise to attach duck tape [this zebra print duct tape is my fave] all around the edges of the glass to give yourself a place to grip the glass without cutting yourself.)
  • a piece of Yupo paper – this is watercolor paper made from 100% polypropylene. The surface is white, waterproof, strong and slick. You can use a sheet of it over and over again to print monotype prints.
  • 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, and they are sheer, so you can see through them to trace photos or scketches onto the plate.

Overall, I transferred enough detail from the print, and some fun mark-making and textures in the ink to play with additional pigments the next morning.

Adding Colored Pencil to Your Monotype Print

Once the ink is dry on your monotype print, you’ll have so much fun adding colored pencils!

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

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.

Colored Pencils are one of my favorite art supplies for enhancing monotypes and watercolors. (Here is a post about using colored pencils to repair watercolors.)

Read More About Monotype Prints

  • If you’re brand new to monotype printmaking, this monotype print tutorial will cover the basics of making a dark field monotype print without a press.
  • After you pull a monotype print, there is often enough ink left on the plate to pull a second, faint version of the first monotype. These soft, transparent siblings of the original print 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.

Playing with colored pencil on a monotype print. Endless fun, refining, enhancing, knocking values back, bringing values up, etc.

Monotype and Colored Pencil

I hope you’ll try mixing your monotype printmaking with other media. Especially if some of the prints in your stash need a little extra something.

During this time of lockdown, an evening spent immersed in creative playtime is a salve. Applying bold strokes of color to an old print is a door to a calmer place, with delightful results emerging under your art supplies. And it might start a whole new series of evening art shenanigans on the couch!

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. Harvest some inspiration and take a look at the paintings, drawings and monotype prints by artist Jane Frederick.

P.P.S. I’m building an online monotype course, and you can get an email when it’s posted by signing up right here.

color monotype pf a girl and her dog
Fastened 10.5 x 8 Monotype Print with Colored Pencils – Available in my Etsy Shop here

rolling out Caligo Safewash Ink for a trace monotype with a mini brayer
Rolling intaglio ink onto your plate (this is Dura-Lar) with a brayer to make a monotype ensures a thin, even layer of ink.

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

Art Quote

The beautiful, which is perhaps inseparable from art, is not after all tied to the subject, but to the pictorial representation. In this way and in no other does art overcome the ugly without avoiding it.

Paul Klee

a tuxedo cat with golden eyes inviting you to get back into making art
Scout the Studio Cat invites you to watch Six Tips to paint More Often.

The post Refining Details on Monotype Prints with Colored Pencils appeared first on Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.


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