What is lithography?
Lithography is a printing process based on the fact that grease and water do not mix. The image is applied to a surface such as stone or aluminum using an oily mixture such as crayons, India ink, pencils or synthetic materials. Other processes like photochemical or transfer can also be used.
To produce an impression in lithography requires a solution of gum arabic and nitric acid which is applied to the surface, thus producing non-imprint areas receptive to water and image areas receptive to the oily mixture. The printing surface is kept moist so that the oil-based ink-covered roller can be rolled over the surface and the ink mixes only in the area with the greasy materials. The paper is then placed against the surface and the board is passed through a press.
How did lithography come about?
Lithography was invented in the late 18th century, making it possible to print a wider range of marks and shade areas than was possible with earlier methods of relief printing. Thus, the color printing process becomes easier as different color areas can be applied on separate and overlapping surfaces on the same sheet. Alois Senefelder was the inventor of this process, discovered in 1798, but he did not share lithographic printing with the public until 1818, when he published Vollständiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerey (A Complete Course in Lithography).
What is offset lithography?
Offset lithography involves printing the image on an intermediate surface before the final sheet. In this process, the board does not come into direct contact with the paper, which ends up preserving the board's quality. With offset lithography, the image is inverted twice and appears on the final sheet in the same rounded shape as on the stone or slab.
Lithography as an artistic medium
In the mid-1800s, lithography became a popular medium among artists such as Francisco de Goya, Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix. Honoré Daumier produced around 4,000 works using this technique and was one of the first lithographers to use the process called transfer lithography, through which the drawing with India ink is made on paper and not on lithographic stone. The design is later transferred to stone and printed in the usual way. This method offers the artist the advantage of being able to work on paper instead of stone, making the process easier and also gives the chance to retain the texture of the paper in the final print. In the second half of the 19th century, artists such as Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet worked on lithography, and Odilon Redon made it his main means of expression.
5 Artists to Know!
This unique reproduction medium has been quite popular among artists over time. In contemporary times, artists began to develop graphic works as an alternative means of artistic production that reached the general public in a more accessible way. Some of the national and international artists who surprised the art world with the technique of lithography were: