Studio Snippet #26: Art Foamies Unboxing
PrintInktober 2023: Days 1-8

Monoprint vs. Monotype

What's a monotype and what's a monoprint?  And why does it matter?

In essentials, a monoprint is repeatable -- for example, a stenciled design, as in these examples:

Or a block printed design, even in multiple colors.

There's a matrix that you can use to repeat the design, even with small variations, like color.  You will often find monoprints as part of a numbered series, as in these watercolor monoprints I made a few years ago:

They were a limited series, because only a certain number of prints could be pulled from the plate before it disappeared, but still a repeatable image.

A monotype is a unique print -- for example, this gelatin print made by using a palette knife:

There is no repeatable matrix. 

This layered monotype contain some stenciling...

...but it is still one-of-a-kind and cannot be easily replicated.  The same is true of these nature prints:

I consider them monotypes.  The leaves are a sort of matrix, but the prints are not repeats of each other.

Something I do a lot is monotype collage, as in this piece:

There are some shapes made with stencils. But it's unlikely that you could easily make two identical versions of this piece, which mixes printmaking and collage together.

Now, there are things that get fiddly.  Does chine-collé count as monoprint or monotype? These two pieces I would consider monoprints. They're basically the same, with some color variation:

Now these ones have more differences than the prints above.

But is variation in the collage paper, collage paper placement, printing ink, and background paper enough to make them monotypes?  I don't think so.  They're still variations on a very distinct image.

So why does it matter? Why should we care if it's a monoprint or a monotype?  Well, let's recap the basics:

Monotypes: Uniqueness in Every Stroke

Monotypes involve painting or drawing an image onto a smooth surface, such as a plate or glass, and then transferring it onto paper. Crucially, there's no reusable matrix involved, making each monotype a one-of-a-kind piece.  Collectors often prize monotypes for their absolute uniqueness. Each print is an original work of art, created with a sense of painterly freedom that can be difficult to replicate in other printmaking techniques.

Monoprints: Variability Within a Framework

Monoprints start with a matrix—a surface from which the image is transferred to paper. However, monoprints do allow for variation between individual prints.  Artists can introduce variations in color, texture, and composition for each impression, creating a series of related but distinct prints.  Monoprints offer artists the opportunity to create a series of related, yet unique, works. 

Why it Matters

For me, the biggest reason it matters is clarity.  Clarity in my own process (what am I making?) and clarity in the buyers mind (what am I buying?). So let's talk about that:

What am I making?

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I preach intentional creating.  Setting up for making monoprints is quite different from setting up for making monotypes.  Monotypes can be spontaneous.  Monoprints require some kind of registration and often involve making a stencil, a stamp, or some other matrix.  I tend to do a lot of planning and often sketching with monoprints.  I don't do almost any prep work when it comes to monotypes.  Therefore, when I climb up to my studio, I need to have a clear idea on whether I'll be making monoprints or monotypes today because they require two different mindsets and paths of activity. 

What am I buying?

Personally, I know the labor that goes into making monoprints.  I know how many bad prints you can have when trying to make a good one.  So I see them as the same value as monotypes, but others might disagree.  Monotypes are considered more unique, which can be a significant draw for collectors seeking one-of-a-kind pieces.  That said, exceptional craftsmanship, creativity, and visual appeal is really what determines the value of both monotypes and monoprints.  

Whether it's the uniqueness of monotypes or the variability of monoprints, I love making them!  How about you?

Thanks for stopping by!