Trace Monotypes

Trace monotypes are created as the name suggests by directly tracing on an inked plate. Endless variation are possible with this monotype-like process, using a trace.

The Process

The artist inks a plant and then places a sheet of paper on top of the inked plate and draws directly onto the paper, transferring the ink onto the paper.


You can make a trace monotype of virtually any image created in a wet medium on a nonabsorbent surface. All that you need is pigment, a plate, paper and pressure. With these basic materials your options are unlimited (Camhy, 2017). There are two main methods of making trace monotypes:

  • The additive method or light-field method is created in which the image is traced by adding or building up pigment onto the paper.
  • The subtractive method or dark-field method is created when the entire paper is first covered with a thin layer of pigment. The artist then works out the image by using the paper as "carbon paper."

Trace Monotype Example, Using the Additive Method.

In the example above, the additive method was used, in which the image is tracing on paper over the inked plate. The trace monotype was created by sketching or tracing with a thumbnail onto the paper that is over a plate with oil-based black paint spread evenly with a brayer. The paper turns into or acts like carbon paper, transferring only where it contacts the ink.


It is a manner for printing that uses an intermediary roller that picks up the inked image and, in the transferring, reverses it to the right way round. The advantage for the artist is that when they make their drawing, they do not have to reverse it.

A Brief History

Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) invented this system called “traced monotypes.” monotypes” where he rolled out printer’s ink on a sheet of paper, then placed a blank sheet of paper on top of the inked one. He proceeded to draw on the top sheet, and as he worked, the pressure from his pencil pressed the entire sheet into the inked sheet below, creating an ink image on the front, or recto, side of the paper, echoing the pencil drawing on the reverse, or verso, side. Gauguin referred to these works as “printed drawings” (Camhy, 2017).


  • Camhy, Sherry. (2017, winter). Painterly Prints: Monotype and Monoprint. Drawing Magazine. p. 20.

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