Watercolor Monotypes!

Yesterday, I learned how to do watercolor monotypes… and let me tell you, its one of the COOLEST forms of printmaking I have ever done! Its an unusual combination of etching, lithography, and ink monotype processes mixed into one. 

A friend at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop had photocopied a Watercolor monotype how-to packet for me and gave me some basic rules of thumb. When I read over the packet yesterday for the first time, I couldn’t believe how intuitive and free form the process was! 

Interesting facts about the process:

1. The plate is sterilized with alcohol to clear any oils off of the plate. Then a “gum buff” is applied to the plate with Gum Arabic. The Gum Arabics acts as a binder to the surface of the plate which allows precise control of the watercolor as it flows onto the plate.

2.  The cheaper the watercolor the better! Cheap watercolor sets contain more Gum Arabic than more expensive sets. This is an advantage when applying the watercolor to the “gum buffed” plate as it prevents bleeding and over-flowing across the plate. 

3. I was told to put green dish soap into the water glass for cleaning brushes. The soap somehow helps make the watercolor stay exactly where it was laid down instead of beading up, due to osmotic pressure properties (or something…)

4 . The coolest fact (in my mind): The watercolored plate can rest FOR MONTHS before printing (as long as its not exposed to high heat or direct sunlight)…. which brings me to #5

5. The printing paper needs to soak for 20 minutes plus, as one would do before printing an intaglio etching. The damp paper (in conjunction with the gum arabic) helps absorb the dry watercolor from the plate. 

6. Smoother and textural papers can be used for different effects. However, Rives BFK does not work well for this process. I am guessing because its too toothy / might pill during printing. 

7. Water soluble crayons and pencils can be used in combination of brushstrokes for different line qualities. 

8. Gouache does not work well in transferring an image in this process because it has lower levels of gum arabic. 

9. The process is mess-free! The clean-up is super fast!

10. Last but not least, the COLOR INTENSITY of the pigments is GREATER in watercolor monotypes than watercolor applied directly to paper. This is because less water is needed to draw onto a non-absorber surface (ie. the plate) versus a piece of paper. Water thins out the pigment intensity. 

So I think I’m pretty into this print method… I’ll go away now..