Monday, April 5, 2010

Watercolor Mono-print how to

Watercolor mono-prints are a fun thing to do and anyone can do it, no drawing skills required.  Of course, if you are able to draw you can do that but it isn’t essential.  I like doing small ones, especially now that I have my grandson here, I can put him in his snuggie on the kitchen table and chat while I work.  But you want to know how to do it, not what I do while I’m doing it.

Here are two examples of prints I’ve done.  Two of these are from photographs which is the method I’m going to show you.  The other is from a sketch in one of my sketchbooks and I show you that just to show you that you have other options.

print flea market 2   still life print


First you’ll need a few basic supplies and they are easily obtainable.  A piece of plexi-glass is the plate the size of your photograph and you’ll need sandpaper to prepare the plate.  One side gets sanded so it will hold the paint.  Your local glass cutter or picture framer will cut you a piece of plexi whatever size you need.

prepare the plate

The other supplies you’ll need are print paper, watercolor paints, a paint brush or watercolor crayons and a container to soak your paper in.  Also helpful but not essential is gum arabic and a chamois

supplies for monoprint paper soaking

Cut your paper a bit larger than your photograph, you want some white space around the image and you want room to crop just in case you don’t put the paper on the plate straight.  Put the paper in the pan of water to soak while you’re working on your plate.  Also, if there is something in the photograph that shouldn’t be reversed, like a word, reverse the photograph before you make your plate.  When you print it’s going to be backwards. 

If you have the gum arabic and chamois, put a drop on the plate and rub it around to completely cover the plate.  It acts as a release and supposedly the paint comes off the plate easier.  I’ve done it with and without and haven’t had a problem either way.  Let the gum arabic dry before you start applying the watercolor to your plate.

Once it’s dry put the plate over your photograph.  Now you can see why you don’t need to know how to draw, you’re going to paint the image you see the colors you see.  Don’t be skimpy with the paint, you want more paint than water in your watercolor and if you’re using the crayons, softer is better.  Caran d'Ache and Stabilotone are the two I like best.  I’ve also used Staedtler Watercolor Crayons but I find them harder to work with.  It isn’t necessary to finish it all in one sitting, when you print the paper is going to be damp and the paint will dampen and move off the plate to the paper.  Here you can see the finished plate and the photograph.

finished plate and photo

Now that the plate is ready, get your paper out of the pan, blot it with paper towel.  You want it damp, not wet.  You’ll also need one more piece of equipment, a wooden spoon.

plate paper spoon

Put your plate down on something that will keep it in place.  Rubber shelf padding works; you don’t want the plate to move while you’re printing.   Now carefully lay the paper down on the plate and rub it softly with your hand to marry the paper and the plate.  Once it’s down, rub it with the back of the spoon.  You can hold one side down and carefully lift a corner to peek and see if you’ve rubbed enough.  When you see that you’ve rubbed enough pull the paper off and set it aside to dry.  When it’s dry, frame it.


Shez said...

This is great Helen thank you for doing this!!! I was wondering what was the one where you used Fabric Softner I think it was, to make prints?
Also is it best to use watercolor crayons or pencils, and not the tubes of color??? Never have worked with watercolor!! Do have some cheap pencils though

Shez said...

I was going to add....I recognize that photo of the veggies....That's one of my References from my WDE in March. Looks good here!!!

Helen Percy Lystra said...

You're right about the reference. Watercolor crayons or tubes work best and the softer crayons work better than the hard ones. I've never tried pencils but if it sticks to the plate it should work.

Are you thinking about the hand sanitizer? I don't remember Fabric Softner but then my memory never was very good and age isn't helping. If it's the hand sanitizer, I'm working on putting together the instructions for that. Stay tuned.

Judybec said...

wow! very cool Helen!!
I appreciate your info -- I've never tried this but I think I will now!


Thanks Helen, This is wonderful! I shall have to try it!

Becka said...

How many times can you re-use the sanded plexiglass? A fellow art teacher told me about a similar project: printing with water color painted onto sanded styrofoam, but that requires drawing the design right onto the printing surface, rather than seeing the design through the plexi-glass. So the styrofoam is unusable.

Jaggers said...

What would work in place of the gum arabic? I have a very tight budget at school, so whenever I can use non-art supply materials I do. Would liquid dish soap work as a release agent instead of the gum arabic?