Trace monoprint experiments

The trace monoprint technique has been used by artists to make drawings.  A plate is inked, and a sheet of paper placed on it.  On to that a found image, photo or sketch is placed, and this is traced with some sort of stylus.

Line quality and tonal values can be altered by:-

  • Using wetter or drier paint (different colours can be mixed on the plate, or the trace process can be done in separate stages, each employing a different colour)
  • varying pressure,
  • using different line-making tools – the harder and thinner, the finer the line (hard thin pencil, biro).  Shading and tonal passages can be created by using a heavier, broader tool
  • using smooth, hard, thin paper or softer, thicker, textured paper.

Trace monotypes stand as drawings on their own, but also make good underdrawings for adding paint or other media (Degas would often add pastel to monotypes).

Paul Klee‘s The Twitter Machine is a trace monotype on a watercolour wash, and I can see an open and fresh variety of line, and subtle textures where ink has transferred, perhaps inadvertently, due to irregular pressure on the back of the sheet.

I just watched “Klee, Twittering Machine” on Khan Academy


Paul Gaugin‘s trace monotypes also have rich textures and varieties of line, in the process acquiring a diffuse atmosphere and a look of age.  Two Marquesans is an example.  He has transferred areas of ink, or perhaps washed some of them in directly, and on to these some traced marks and lines and energy to the drawing.


I made some experimental marks in my sketchbook and then traced a magazine image, followed by part of an old family photo traced onto rough watercolour paper, which accentuated textures and broke shading down into a stippled effect

The family portrait has a certain charm – facial expressions, simply done, are intent and slightly belligerent!  Shaded background was done with light finger pressure.  Shading of the father achieved with marks made with a finer, harder tool, would have been more effective if I’d given more thought to making the marks describe form instead of just ‘shading in’.

Later I added loose watercolour washes to two of the traced monotypes


This has been an encouraging experiment for me, and i can see the potential for using trace monotype in combination with loose, flat wash in watercolour or other thinned medium.  The process could be imagined on a thin, semi-transparent support such as silk or lightweight kozi paper, with the resulting painting being laid down over another, stronger painting done on a more solid support.




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