5.2. and 5.3 Monotype: Transfer and Reductive

  • Use the selfportrait from unit 1 to make a transfer monoprint
  • Then make a print drawing directly onto the inked plate with different tools (reductive method)

As I wanted to make the reductive print of my self portrait I decided to use the transfer method to make a “sketch” onto the plate from which to make the reductive print. I chose one of the ink portraits as they are simpler with less detail than my pencil drawing.

The first try failed. I had used relief ink. The paper for the transfer print instantly stuck to the plate and subsequently pulled off a lot of ink in random patches. The traces are almost invisible and the reductive print I made from this turned out blotchy and has no dark darks.

Note added later: The mistake here was that I used too much ink. With a thin layer rolled out on the plate relief ink works fine.


I painted some of the darks around the eyes but as the paint is very stiff and I have no thinner they turned out wobbly. I do like the eyes in this one, though. Also I realised that I did not really have any strategy to make midtones to vary the background and shadows.

For my next try I used etching ink, which is stiffer and had produced a very nice traced print of the mortar and pestle in my initial tests. Already when inking the plate I was careful to ink the darker side really well and ink the lighter side only lightly. After tracing I also pressed on the areas where I wanted a midtone in the reductive print. This would remove enough ink from the plate to make a difference I hoped. Consequently, the traced picture got characteristics of a negative, e.g. the dark eyes and light eyebrows.

transfer 2
Etching ink on newsprint

I like this one. It has nice textures and the variations in tone make it interesting, maybe because they are unexpected. As I wanted clear lines on the plate I pressed quite strongly when tracing and did not vary the lines. I wonder to what extent it is possible to do so. This needs investigating.

Etching ink clearly works better for traced prints. Removing it from the plate in a controlled manner, on the other hand, is harder than with relief ink. It does want to remain on the plate. The detail in the face took a long time. I had tops and rubber utensils that are used in oil painting I believe, rags, toiletpaper and bamboo skewers. Still the midtones are missing although I achieved a lighter background behind the shadow side of the head and some tonal variation in the sleeve. My attempt to make the main shadows of the face lighter than the eyebrows and the pupils did not work. I should have dabbed away more ink like I did with the shirt. By the same mistake the eyes became too dark.

portrait 2
Etching ink on smooth jute paper, 100gms

The smooth jute paper is perfect to print on. It readily takes the ink and allows for fine detail.

I am happy with this print. I like the composition and the balance between light and dark. It has nice textures and character. I am especially pleased with the mouth, the hair and the sleeve. I also like the white outlines in the dark parts.

It is hard to wipe away the picture on the plate after just one print. So I made a ghost, trying to remedy the dark eyes in the process. I wetted the paper this time to make it take more ink. It crinkled a bit but worked fine otherwise. Apart from the fact that I made the wrong part of the eyes lighter. It really became a ghost with its dark whites and light irises… This gives the portrait a very different expression. Interesting.

portrait 2 - ghost



The self portrait was a challenge. I realised I had to make a number of decisions at the beginning and plan my way ahead. To draw lights rather than darks still feels odd. This might be one of the reasons why my tonal range is narrow. An other is tools and experience. This whole process is still very much trial and error. For this to work better I think I need to find better tools and learn to produce different tones.

As with paints on a palette I like to use up left over printing ink in a spontaneous print. Today this is the product of that – clearly influenced by the Karl Mårtens exhibition yesterday.


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