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.

Stone Lithography

The process is quite difficult and time-consuming, requiring a lithography press because of the thickness of the stone. But corrections can be made through stopping out with acetone. Great care mush be taken with the press because unevenness can cause parts of the image to be missed – this can be corrected through adding packing.

See You Tube tutorials below


This is an easier process that produces plates that can be printed on an etching press. But a special exposure unit is needed to produce the plates.


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.

Griffiths, A., (1980) Prints and Printmaking: An introduction to the history and techniques, London: British Museum Press.

Lloyd, R., (2014) Hockney Printmaker, London: Acala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd.

Martin, J., (1993) The Encyclopedia of Printmaking Techniques, London: Quarto Publishing.

Meyrick, R., (2013) Sydney Lee Prints: A Catalogue Raisonnee, London: Royal Academy of the Arts.

Pogue, D., (2012) Printmaking Revolution : new advancements in technology, safety and sustainability, New York: Watson-Guptill publications.

Porzio, D. (ed.) (1982) Lithography: 200 years of art, history & technique, London: Bracken Books.

Salamon, F., (1972) The History of Prints and Printmaking from Durer to Picasso: A guide to collecting, New York, Sat Louis, San Francisco: American Heritage Press.

Stobart, J., (2001) Printmaking for Beginners, London: A&C Black.

Woods, L., (2011) The Printmaking Handbook: Simple techniques and step-be-step projects, London: Search Press.

Exhibitions and Galleries

British Museum

Picasso post-war prints: lithographs and aquatints (27 January – 3 March 2017)

Fitzwilliam Museum

Degas, Desboutin and Rembrandt: parallels in prints (27 October 2017 – 25 February 2018)

Degas: A Passion for Perfection  (3 October 2017 – 14 January 2018) prints in various media

Degas: Caricature and Modernity ( 12 September 2017 – 21 January 2018) lithographs and drypoints

You Tube technique 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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