Please note that all images on this site are copyrighted by the artist and may not be reproduced without permission. Stone Lithographs

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

About Stone Lithography

I've lifted the summary below from Wikipedia. After reading about stone lithography, I hope you will look again at my beautiful original lithographic prints with a new appreciation for the effort, the skill, the art, and the science that went into making them!

In lithography the entire print block comes in contact with the paper sheet, and a chemical process confines the ink to the desired image on the block. This contrasts with relief printing where the ink is carried on a raised image, and intaglio, where it lies in the grooves of an engraved image. Because the print block is flat rather than relief, lithography is described as a planographic print process.

Lithography works because of the repulsion of oil and water. The image is drawn on the surface of the print block with an oil-based medium. The range of oil-based mediums is endless but the dexterity of the image relies on the lipid content of the material being used--its ability to withstand water and acid. Following the placement of the image is the application of an acid emusified with gum arabic. The function of this emulsion is to create a salt layer directly around the image area. The salt layer seeps into the pores of the stone, completely enveloping the original image. This process is called etching. Using lithographic turpentine, the printer then removes the greasy drawing material, leaving only the salt layer; it is this salt layer which holds the skeleton of the image's original form. When printing, the stone or plate is kept wet with water. Naturally the water is attracted to the layer of salt created by the acid wash. Ink that bears a high lipid content is then rolled over the surface. The water repels the grease in the ink and the only place for it to go is the cavity left by the original drawing material. When the cavity is sufficiently full, the stone and paper are run through a press which applies even pressure over the surface, transferring the ink to the paper and off the stone.

Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1798, and it was the first new printing process since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used (hence the name "lithography"—"lithos" is the ancient Greek word for stone). After the oil-based image was put on the surface, acid burned the image onto the surface; gum arabic, a water soluble solution, was then applied, sticking only to the non-oily surface and sealing it. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite.

Within a few years of its invention, the lithographic process was used to create multi-color printed images, a process known by the middle of the 19th century as Chromolithography. A separate stone was used for each colour, and a print went through the press separately for each stone. The main challenge was of course to keep the images aligned (in register). This method lent itself to images consisting of large areas of flat colour, and led to the characteristic poster designs of this period. Many fine works of chromolithographic printing were produced in America and Europe.
A very detailed description of the stone lithographic preparation and printing process, with photos, can be found here.
More basics about stone lithography:
In Stone Lithography the artist draws the image directly onto a specially-prepared flat piece of smooth limestone from Bavaria. A limited number of lithographic prints are made from the drawing on the stone, and each print is individually signed by the artist. The stone is then resurfaced, destroying the drawing. As the stone is merely a tool, each lithographic print is considered to be an original. You can read more about the process near the bottom of this page. After reading a little about the art and science of stone lithography, you may have a new appreciation for the effort and skill that go into making stone lithographs of this quality.

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Please note that all images on this site are copyrighted by the artist and may not be reproduced in any manner without permission.