Stone lithography was invented in 1798, and it was the first new printmaking technique to emerge in about 300 years.

Stone lithography’s popularity with artists came about because it was the first printmaking medium to allow the artist to naturally “paint” or “draw” onto a flat stone to create an image. The artist creates the work directly and naturally.

The basic idea used in stone lithography is extremely simple:

  1. The artist draws/paints on the stone with a greasy substance. For example, a litho crayon is a soft waxy/greasy crayon. There are also litho paints and pencils. The stone picks up this greasy substance and holds it.
  2. The stone is moistened with water. The parts of the stone not protected by the greasy paint soak up the water.
  3. Oil-based ink is rolled onto the stone. The greasy parts of the stone pick up the ink, while the wet parts do not.
  4. A piece of paper is pressed onto the stone, and the ink transfers from the stone to the paper.


From the artist’s standpoint, you can see that the process of preparing the work is extremely natural. There is not a tremendous amount of difference between drawing/painting on the stone and doing the same on a piece of paper.

There are a few things to keep in mind, however:

  1. Anything that involves lettering has to be drawn on the stone as a mirror image.
  2. Anything that involves multiple colors must be color-separated in the artist’s mind, and the artist must prepare a different stone for each color. The printmaker must then ink, align and press the paper on these separate stones to create the final image. A complex image can have seven or eight stones.
  3. If inked properly, the stone is good for 100 or 200 prints.
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