What Is a Serio Lithograph?

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A seriolithograph is a high-quality reproduction of a piece of art, often an oil painting, run in limited editions. Relatively new, seriolithography combines two fine art printing techniques, lithography and serigraphy, to create a richly detailed print that effectively captures the colors and textures of the original artwork.


Lithography’s History

Lithography was invented in Germany in the late 1700s by Alois Senefelder, a writer who sought a way to print his own works. The technique quickly grew to prominence with artists in Paris as an effective way to create multiple copies of posters advertising various entertainment venues.


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Making a Lithograph

To create lithographs, artists use special water-resistant drawing tools, most often litho chalks (also known as litho crayons), as well as litho pens and even brushes for use with melted litho ink. With these tools the artists (also called lithographers) draw or paint directly onto a special plate—limestone or sheets of zinc or aluminum. After completing the drawing, they process the plate with chemicals, nitric acid, gum arabic and turpentine, to make the nonsketched areas repel ink, while the drawing itself attracts ink. Once the stone or sheet is processed, the artists cover it with ink and place a piece of paper over it. They then run it through a press to print the drawing. Each color application requires its own separate stone or metal sheet.


Making a Serigraph

Serigraphy, also known as screen printing or silkscreening, evolved in the early 1900s from the centuries-old practice of stencil printing. To create serigraphs, artists stretch fabric—typically silk in the past but today synthetic materials are more commonly used—tightly across a frame. Then they use special chemicals in a process similar to photography to block out the areas that should not be inked. The technique enables drawings and photos to be transferred to the fabric, so that it isn't necessary to create the original work directly on the screen.


Attributes of a Serigraph

Serigraphy uses special paint, rather than ink, providing versatility to create a finished product that can closely resemble oils, pastels or watercolor washes. After applying the paint to the screen, the artist uses a squeegee to pull the paint across the screen, printing the image on the paper or canvas placed beneath. Each color requires a separate screen, and often a serigraph comprises hundreds of colors, requiring hundreds of screens.


Evolution of the Seriolithograph

By combining the intricate detail obtained through lithography with the rich colors and textures created through serigraphy, the seriolithograph is quickly emerging as the ideal technique for superior reproductions of paintings. Printed on high-quality paper, the seriolithograph begins with the lithograph, which provides the detailed drawing. Then the skilled printer creates serigraph screens to build color and depth as well as to create the texture specific to the original painting. The printer completes the process by applying a high-gloss varnish, adding more depth to the printed piece.


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