Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monoprint Studies

There were a pair of nesting eagles at the lake this summer.  We would watch them from the boat as they sat in their nest or soared over the water.  Very majestic!

This eagle is part of a monprint study.  Monoprints are very easy to do.  I use the "sandwich" method I first learned from Rhian Brynjolson's book, "Art & Illustration For the Classroom". The latest edition of this book can be found here.

Faux Bark Paintings
 Wax paper monprints produce wonderful texture, here is another project where I used wax paper monprint to produce the background.

- drawing paper
- wax paper
- construction paper, dark colors work well
- reference material if required
- stapler
- pencil and eraser
- acrylic paints
- paintbrush, palette(plate), water, and paper towel
- sharpie


You want your drawing paper, wax paper and construction paper to all be the same size.

Use your scissors or the paper cutter.

Your print can either be landscape or portrait.  Once you determine what suits your subject matter, draw a line on the left side of your paper.  This is where you will be stapling the "sandwich" together.

By drawing a line you know the parameters of your composition or where to stop sketching.

Make a sketch of your composition.  Part of what I love about this project is all the steps are in your "sandwich".  Making a plan (sketch) is a fundamental part of art and almost every project I do with students includes this step.

You can use reference material to help with your sketch.

I have a few eagle themed projects so I'm using a prior sketch I used as a guideline.

Lay your wax paper on top of your completed sketch.

Now place your construction paper on top of the wax paper and staple down the left hand side.

You now have your "sandwich".

Open it up to the wax paper.  I spend a few seconds making a nice fold line along the staples.

We can start painting.  You can see your sketch thru the wax paper.

Grab your acrylic paints, paintbrush, palette (I use foam plates which the kids wash and use over and over again), water and a paper towel.

Starting with the background, paint small sections at a time.

While the paint is still wet, fold the construction paper back and press with your hand.  You can also rub back and forth to insure a good print.

Open up your sandwich and you can see where the paint has transferred.

If you did not get a good print no worries, re paint the section and try again.

The  main problem will be that the paint has dried on you before you can make the print.  Add a little water into your paint and keep to the small sections.  I also find you can re wet the paint on the wax paper as well.

Complete the background. 

Now you could just stop here with a nice lesson in negative space.  (note to self: good Halloween project in the making)

Otherwise keep going.  Now I'm gonna give you a little tip about working on a dark background.

Often dark colors will not show up.  Here I tried some brown but you can't see it on the black.

You can fix this by making a tint.  A tint is any color that has white added to it. 

Here I added some white to my brown on the palette, painted it in, and it's visible on the dark background.

Keep adding to your monoprint in small sections at a time.  Because you are layering you can add more details on top of places you have already printed.

For my eagle I painted some larger sections of the wing, I then did my print, let the construction paper and wax paper dry in that area, and then came back over the same section with other colors for feather detail. 

This means you can also do this over 2 sessions if you need to, you can interrupt this project.
Finish all your painting.

If you want you can add a bit of outlining with pencil or a black sharpie.  I ask students to use sketch lines.  By that I mean just touches of outline here and there to give it a "sketched look".

Now you can leave your sandwich together at this point to display all the parts of the process or

you can cut away the construction paper on the fold line.

I also like adding "sketch lines" to the wax paper part and hanging those in the window.

There you go, a terrific project using supplies you already have on hand to start off the school year!

See you soon.


  1. Great tutorial as always! I'll have to give this a go sometime. Thanks!

  2. Great process! You explained it so clearly. I love that the prints don't have to be finished in a single session (great for us folks limited by 40 minute art classes). Thanks for posting.

  3. Thanks. I really like the idea of stapling the layers together so they will always "match up"!!

  4. This is such an original monoprinting lesson- can't wait to try it! Thanks for such detailed instructions as always!

  5. I just love watching you create. Love your work. Thanks for sharing.