Lithography is a method of creating prints that are made from an image which has been applied, to a flat surface. Traditionally this flat surface was a specially prepared lime stone, but today grained aluminium-printing plates and the original stones are used. Lithography is based on the fact that oil repels water. An image is drawn, painted or photographically applied the stone or plate using a greasy medium. The image will repel water and accept ink. Lithographic inks are oil based.
The plate is placed on a lithography press and is then rolled up. Lithography uses leather and rubber rollers. Paper is then placed on the print and is run through the press by hand. Like many other printing processes one colour at a time is printed.
Lithography is a very versatile printing technique and artists can get the medium to suit the needs of their particular style. Lithography can be subtle with many layers of washes or it can look like a pencil drawing with strong lines that pick up the texture of the drawing tool and the "tooth" of the plate. It can have large areas of flat colour or else areas can be "scratched" into. With a skilled master printer to guide the artist almost any effect is possible in lithography.
The chemicals used in processing lithography are relatively harmless and pose no threat to the artist.
Offset lithography, although evolving from the same chemical processes as hand lithography, is a separate and distinctly different process. Offset printing is the technique used in industry for printing books, magazines etc. It needs complicated machinery and equipment and is only used by artists to do reproductions of their work.
Questions and Answers about Lithography