Lithography techniques

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What is lithography?

Lithography is a planographic process based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. It uses a chemical process on a plate to form:

  • printing areas that are oleophilic (oil-loving)/ hydrphobic (water-rejecting)
  • non printing areas that are oleophobic (oil-rejecting)/ hydrophilic (water-loving)

Plates are of different types: generally prepared lithographic stones, aluminium photo lithographic plates but in ‘kitchen lithography’ can also use aluminium foil. Through sponging and keeping the plate wet and then rolling ink on top, the ink adheres only to the water-rejecting areas.

Lithographic inks and crayons can produced a wide range of very interesting textured and water-colour-type effects, close to drawing or painting on paper. Single plates can be monochrome, or use rainbow rolling techniques. For truly multi-colour prints separate plates are prepared for each colour and overprinted.

Bibliography of sources consulted

  • D’arcy Hughes, A. & Vernon-Morris, H., (2008) The Printmaking Bible: the complete guide to materials and techniques, San Francisco, Chronicle Books.
  • Grabowski, B. & Flick, B., (2009) Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials and processes, London, Lawrence King Publishing.
  • Pogue, D., (2012) Printmaking Revolution : new advancements in technology, safety and sustainability, New York, watson-guptill publications.
  • Stobart, J., (2001) Printmaking for Beginners, London, A&C Black.


You Tube tutorials

Stone lithography
A clear step by step guide

A succinct overview of markmaking and the lithographic process.

Another good overview with different types of markmaking



Canadian artists




Waterless lithography
Uses metal plate, waterbased drawing media, paint thinner and silicon, with gum-based inks.

Paper lithography

Kitchen lithography

Uses aluminium foil, some sort of grease for drawing and cola to etch.

This is a very simple process. But not clear what the grease is – vaseline? Soap? But I really like the zen/manga-like energy of the bold brush line.

This version looks more complicated in that it sands and dusts the plate. The look is more craftsy, using lithograph crayons. But because the etch is much cruder the crayons do not seem to have the same artistic subtlety as they do in stone lithography.

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