Lithography is based on the principle that oil and water repel each other.
There are two kinds of lithography: art lithography and offset lithography,
used for commercial printing. In art lithography, the paper is placed
directly on the plate. In offset lithography, the paper is contacted by a
roller, which first contacted the plate.
You have to make a separate plate for each color, because you will be
working quickly, so you cannot stop while you ink up separate areas, because
the wet areas of the plate will dry out. But maybe you can find a way to
do it! If so, let me know! Plates can be large, heavy limestone litho
are smoothed by something called a "levigator," or thin aluminum plates
which have been specially treated, or special paper plates, sold by American
Art Clay Co (Amaco).
Amaco has a lesson plan for spoon-printing lithography at
http://www.amaco.com/WhatsNew/index.html I have to say that I tried spoon
printing on their plates and didn't have much luck. I was only able to make
a couple of impressions and they weren't very good, but that was quite a few
years ago, before the WWW. Now that I look at the Amaco site, I see that I
should not have used gum arabic on my paper plates. For paper plates, the
chemicals needed are mineral spirits and plate wash (the directions come
with the plates, and it's also sold in a kit.) For stones or aluminum
plates, you will need a litho press (which has a scraper bar instead of a
roller), gum arabic, nitric acid, plate wash, etc,--pretty much the same
thing as for stone lithography.
After the students have drawn on the paper plates with Sharpie pen or greasy
crayon, the plates are wiped with a watery plate wash. Then they are rolled
up with greasy ink on a brayer. The scientific principle is still the
same--oil and water repel each other. So where you have water on the plate,
the oily ink will not stick. The oily ink will stick to the place you have
drawn the image with your greasy crayon or Sharpie. Then you can print it
by putting a paper on top of it and rubbing the back of a paper with a
(The "bible" of printmaking techniques is The Complete Printmaker, by Ross
I tried all this out because I was searching for a way to teach non-toxic
printmaking to high school students, as I developed my teaching curriculum.
Regarding printmaking, I discovered that one can scratch (drypoint) into
plexiglass or other plastic plates, ink it up intaglio-style with Speedball
water-based ink, and print on either damp or dry paper in a small etching
press. Intaglio means that the ink is pressed into the lines and the
surface of the plate is wiped almost clean. I say "almost" because one
pleasing characteristic of an etching is the plate tone, which is the ink
residue left on the surface. So if you have access to an etching press, I
can almost garantee that you and your students will enjoy making drypoints
Also, almost everyone enjoys making monoprints, which is a very direct way
of printing--you just draw, or paint on your plate until you have a picture
you like. Then you lay your damp paper down and rub it on the back.
Printmaking is fun because there are an infinite ways of making plates and
getting different kinds of marks to transfer to paper or cloth. Most
printmaking methods are obsolete forms of mass communication, so I think it
is rather strange that there is currently such a hullaballoo over whether
digital prints can be a legitimate form of fine art. By the way, I like the
American Masters printmaking paper that Utrecht makes.
If I get to teach fourth grade science again this summer, maybe I'll bring
in my old Amaco litho masters!
Jean Eger Womack
> Subject: lithography
> From: krista hagan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Mon, 01 Jul 2002 08:41:35 -0400
> X-Message-Number: 3
> I was wondering if anyone on the list had any info/experience with
> lithography. I'd really like to try it this summer and I know the basic
> idea of it, but am not quite sure how to get started. One thing that is
> confusing me, is that in order to do several colors, it appears you need
> to do several plates. If it works as a resist, why can't you do as many
> colors as you want, ink it up, and then print? As you can see, I'm a bit
> confused. Do I need any specific chemicals? Some web sites mention
> chemicals, some don't. I looked on the web and basically kept finding
> the same descriptions.
> Usually when someone on list explains something, it makes a lot more