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Posted by Graphica on 10/25/2007 2:15:27 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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Lithography means literally, "stone writing" and is the chief flat surface print-making process. There are no raised or depressed surface on the plate to hold ink. It is based on the principle that grease and water do not mix. Using oil-based ink or a grease crayon, an image is drawn on a flat stone or metal plate. Water is applied to the surface and is repelled by the areas where oil-based images have been drawn. The entire surface is then coated with an oil-based ink that adheres only to the areas drawn in oil, ink, or crayon. The image is then printed on paper. Lithography became a popular printing technique because thousands of exact replicas could be made that were like drawings on paper, without degradation of the image.

Lithography was invented by a German playwright named Alois Senefelder in 1790 who realized its commercial potential and abandoned playwrighting in order to perfect the process. He secured patent rights across Europe and publicized his findings in 1818 in "Vollstandiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerei" which was translated in 1819 into French and English. A Complete Course of Lithography combined Senefelder's history of his own invention with a practical guide to lithography, and remained in print into the early 20th century.

Les Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel (U)
Salvador Dali
Lithograph on Deluxe Paper
21W x 30H Inches

Modern lithography is widely used to produce limited edition prints of originals like the lithograph of Dali shown above. Many innovations and technical refinements have been made in printing processes and presses over the years, including the development of presses with multiple units (each containing one printing plate) that can print multi-color images in one pass on both sides of the sheet, and presses that accommodate continuous rolls (webs) of paper, known as web presses. Another innovation was the continuous dampening system. This increased control over the water flow to the plate and allowed for better ink and water balance. In the 1890's color lithography became enormously popular with French artists, Toulouse-Lautrec.

In recent years, a special form of printing technique has evolved, the Serilith or Seriolithographic process is sometimes used. Seriolithographs are mixed media original prints created in a process where an artist uses the lithograph and serigraph process. The separations for both processes are hand drawn by the artist. The Seriolithographic technique is used primarily to create fine art limited print editions.

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