What is a Lithograph Print?

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A black and white lithograph print of an aqueduct
A black and white lithograph print of an aqueduct (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Named from Greek words for “stone” and “writing,” a lithograph print is made from flat plates with no etching or carving. Invented by German author Aloys Senefelder, the technique traditionally used limestone tablets, although contemporary artists may use aluminum or zinc plates instead. This style of printing, also known as “offset,” produces a high volume of copies at a reasonable price.

Putting on the Prints

To make a lithograph, the artist transfers the desired design to the stone with waxy grease pencils or crayons, followed by an oil-based ink. After that, a sheet of paper is pressed to the tablet to transfer the image. For color prints, each of the four main print colors requires a separate plate and transfer. The artist may also choose to hand-color a completed black-and-white print.

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