Project 3: Two coloured masked mono prints

Project 3: Two coloured masked mono prints

I chose the subject for this project from the sketches done previously and particularly I chose a silhouette drawn from an old picture of mine.

I simplified the image trying to adapt it to the purpose, then I cut it.

Scan 7.jpg

On my first attempt of printing I realised straight away that the picture’s details were too small so I changed subject, a face drawn with a continuous line.

Scan 10

That was definitely a better choice as the colour could easily cover the large areas of my masks. Unfortunately the pencil I used to draw the mask was too soft so it got transferred onto the paper.

I had one more go with different colours.

Scan 13

I was quite happy with the result, even though I am still adjusting the right amount of paint and its thickness, which I find very difficult to get right so far.

Variations using masks and multi-colours

Using the same mask, I printed this time in three different colours, trying to create an interesting effect by expressly getting the registration wrong.

Scan 14

To get familiar with this process and loosen up my creativity, I tried printing overlapping colours and using simple geometrical masks cut and ripped quite freely.


I found the outcome quite interesting especially because it helped me to get a better idea of the ink’s thickness necessary to obtain certain effects.

Another experiment consisted in modifying the ink surface by using found objects: I used a kitchen cloth, some cling film, a make up brush, a garlic net, a T-shirt and my fingerprints.

On the first print I used some dark green leftover ink which I thought wasn’t really good for this purpose as the image resulted really confused.

Scan 18

A better result came out using blue ink.

Scan 19

I found it very difficult to represent a landscape in monoprinting and with textures, the main reason being the fact that printing by hand gives already a texture to the ink. It has been really difficult for me to achieve a readable image and very difficult to make the textures stand out.


In this example, I proceeded by layering the sky at first, using the back of a sponge to create some clouds. I then put a darker layer of blue and tapped a t-shirt on it to create a base for the sea. The darkest part of the sea has been layered later, with a palette knife and a sea sponge. For the cliff I used a dark brown first, rolling some pasta over it, and then repeated the process with a lighter brown, applied with a palette knife. The vegetation on top of the cliff has been applied with the palette knife and tapped with a sponge. I had problems in getting the quantity of ink right, as it seemed to me either not enough (making difficult to impress a mark in it) or too much (it was expanding in the process of printing, hiding the textures impressed in it).


The last step for this project consisted in back drawing.

I experimented first with white ink on black paper, trying to choose a subject with few lines. The first print has been done drawing on the back of the paper with a stick which produced an interesting thick line.

Scan 1

A second print has been done with a simple ball point pen. I found it way easier and the line produced more versatile.

Scan 2

The next print has been done in the same way, just changing colour and paper.

Scan 5

I also tried to repeat it using a more diluted ink, but I think the outcome here is quite confusing, even though the line looks soft and expressive.

Scan 6

I tried back drawing with three different colours. I used the design that didn’t work for the negative and positive masks prints, which in this case worked very well.

I first drawn the main figure in red, then proceeded with a light blue background and lastly using bordeaux to make the figure stand out.

Scan 8

Finally I tried drawing from life, using the back drawing technique. The only place available to work at this experiment was next to the window, so I took an impression of the view.

I tried keep the drawing quite loose and free. The print came out quite clear, even though the ink has overlapped in some areas. Also the darkest green ink used for the trees was too liquid so it moved on the sides of the lines, producing a white space.

Scan 9.jpg

Summing up this project, I have gone through different difficulties and made quite a lot of mistakes, but all of it helped a lot to get a better confidence with the process of monoprinting and to get my creativity stimulated by using processes completely new to me.

Research point

Researching about back drawing I found very interesting results in prints from Paul Klee, Tracey Emin and Richard Downs. by simply observing some of the images, I found that while Richard Downs’ prints seem to be a little more ‘planned’, probably because of his illustration background, the Paul Klee and Tracey Emin’s ones look more ‘instinctively made’. In all cases the lines are very expressive and warm and that is my favourite aspect about back drawing. What I am learning from these artists is too experiment using the lines more freely and just take advantage of the fact that the technique itself adds character to the final result.

Paul Klee
Richard Downs
Tracey Emin