Monotyping creates unique, one-of-a-kind prints by using paint or ink on a non-porous surface and transferring it to paper. By greatly extending working time, current developments in acrylic paint can now allow artists to easily work with water-based media.


Monotypes1 are made by applying paint or ink to a non-porous surface and using pressure to transfer the resulting image to a piece of absorbent paper. After the paper is carefully peeled up and set aside to dry, the surface can be wiped clean and the process repeated. This direct transfer process allows artists to create prints without the use of silk-screens, engraved plates, woodblocks or other printmaking devices. The limitation of this process is that it creates only single editions.


Most smooth, non-porous surfaces can be used as a base for a monotype. Choose a surface that will not stain or be affected by paint, water, or cleaning products. Tempered glass and metal are most often used. While materials like Plexiglas® and Formica® will suffice, acrylic paint has a greater tendency to stick to these surfaces, especially if allowed to dry.

If a printing press is going to be used, the base material must be flexible enough to withstand pressure. Beyond traditional metal plates, plastic sheets like Plexiglas®, Acrylite®, or Lexan® may withstand this pressure.

When using manual pressure, tempered glass work well and is easy to clean if paint dries in the process. A sheet of white paper placed underneath will make it easier to see the image. Sketches, photographs, or other reference material can also be used in this way.


While oil paints might seem ideal for monotypes, their linseed oil content will eventually cause yellowing and decomposition in paper fibers1. Furthermore, quick absorption of oil into the paper can cause the paint to become brittle, crack and delaminate.

Lithography and other printing inks generally work well and have been the most common media for monotypes in the past. However their palettes are limited and thicker applications can result in tacky, slow drying prints. In addition, both oil-based inks and paints often require toxic solvents to modify working properties and facilitate clean-up.


OPEN Acrylics

Because of their slow-drying properties, GOLDEN OPEN Acrylics work well for monotypes. To maximize working time while adjusting translucency, viscosity, and flow, GOLDEN OPEN Acrylic Medium, Gel, and Thinner can be added. For complete information, refer to the following Tech Sheets:

GOLDEN Heavy Body and Fluid Acrylics

As these paints are fast drying additives are needed to increase their working time. Below are the most common choices:

Retarder and OPEN Thinner

GOLDEN Retarder can be blended with acrylic paints, gels and mediums to extend drying time. Typical recommendation is to limit additions to no more than 15% of the total. However, when working on absorbent papers, the concerns of adding too much Retarder are less of an issue.

GOLDEN OPEN Thinner can be used as a thin-bodied retarder when less viscosity is desired. As with the Retarder, the usual guidelines on maximum addition can be relaxed due to the absorbent nature of paper. For more information, see the following Tech Sheet:

OPEN Thinner

Silk-Sreen Medium

Because of its slow-drying properties, GOLDEN Silk-Screen Medium works well for monotyping. Blend equal parts paint to Silk-Screen Medium to start and adjust as desired. For additional instruction, refer to the following Tech Sheet:

Silk-Screen Medium

Acrylic Glazing Liquid

GOLDEN Acrylic Glazing Liquid has a longer working time than typical acrylic mediums. As much medium as desired can be added without the concern of poor film formation. Available in Gloss and Satin. For additional instruction, refer to the following Tech Sheet:

Acrylic Glazing Liquid

OPEN Medium and Gel

GOLDEN OPEN Medium (Gloss) and OPEN Gel (Gloss) can be used with Golden Heavy Body and Fluid Acrylics to increase working time. Open time will be proportionate to the percentage that is added. For complete information refer to the following Tech Sheet:

OPEN Medium and Gel


Film Thickness

With some experimentation, an understanding of the amount of paint required will develop. This understanding is extremely important when several layers of paint are applied for one print. Any application thicker than a normal brush stroke can smear as it is transferred to paper.

Wet in Wet Applications

For easier blending, apply a layer of OPEN Medium, Silk-Screen Medium, or Acrylic Glazing Liquid to the base surface before applying any acrylic paints. This can allow undiluted colors to be applied and manipulated without drying too quickly.

A Mirror Image

As paint or ink is applied to the monotype base, remember that whatever is applied first will be in front once it is transfered to the print, and paint applied later will be behind that.


Paper Selection

In general, fine art papers made for printmaking are appropriate for most monotype techniques. Also, because the process involves both moisture and pressure, thicker and denser papers tend to perform better though the process.

Dampening the Paper

Dampening the paper beforehand is often required to allow the print to easily pull-away from the working surface as faster drying paints can act like glue. When using OPEN Acrylics or other slow drying acrylic mediums, this step may not be necessary, but always test applications to be sure.


Applying the Paper

Once the image is complete quickly, but carefully, lay the paper onto the surface. Do not re-position the paper once it has made initial contact. For large prints, bow the paper and let the center make first contact with the surface then allow it to flatten naturally to reduce the chance of air pockets developing.

Rubbing or Pressing the Image

There are several methods that may be employed for this procedure. The simplest manner is to gently rub with the palm or heel of the hand in a gentle circular motion. Additionally, the back of a wooden spoon can be used. Laying a cloth down first can even out the pressure to create a more uniform print.

A brayer (small roller) also works well to evenly press the paper down. Gently roll across the paper, increasing pressure slightly with each pass.

A printing press can also be used for monotyping techniques, although pressure normally used for wood block or other methods of printing can be excessive for monotypes. Test to find the amount of pressure that works best for the equipment and materials being used.

Pulling the Print from the Surface

Avoid moving the print while lifting. Use one hand to secure a corner and pull up from the opposite corner. Be careful not to touch the image while placing the print where it can dry undisturbed before further handling. Do not stack prints directly on each other.

Treat the print as any other fine art print or watercolor. If the print is to be displayed unframed and without glass, it should be sealed and varnished for protection. Refer to the following Tech Sheet for more information:

Varnishing Application Guidelines


  1. The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Fifth Edition; Ralph Mayer; Viking-Penguin, 1991; NY, NY.
  2. Chemistry of Lithography, Paul J. Hartsuch, Ph.D.; Lithographic Technical Foundation, Inc.; 1961; NY, NY.
  3. How to Care for Works of Art on Paper, Dolloff & Perkinson, Museum of Fine Arts; 1979; Boston, MA.


1While monotypes and monoprints are often used interchangeably they historically refer to quite different processes. Monotypes are wholly unique and created on a clean surface. Monoprints, by contrast, are developed by altering or adding unique elements to a pre-existing design repeated in a series of prints. 


The above information is based on research and testing done by Golden Artist Colors, Inc., and is provided as a basis for understanding the potential uses of the products mentioned. Due to the numerous variables in methods, materials and conditions of producing art, Golden Artist Colors, Inc. cannot be sure the product will be right for you. Therefore, we urge product users to test each application to ensure all individual project requirements are met. While we believe the above information is accurate, WE MAKE NO EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, and we shall in no event be liable for any damages (indirect, consequential, or otherwise) that may occur as a result of a product application.