The Full Wiki

Lithography: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Lithography

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of the series on the
History of printing
Woodblock printing 200
Movable type 1040
Intaglio 1430
Printing press 1454
Lithography 1796
Chromolithography 1837
Rotary press 1843
Offset printing 1875
Mimeograph 1876
Hot metal typesetting 1886
Flexography 1890
Screen-printing 1907
Photocopier 1949
Dye-sublimation 1957
Phototypesetting 1960s
Pad printing 1960s
Dot matrix printer 1964
Laser printer 1969
Thermal printer 1970s
Inkjet printer 1976
3D printing 1986
Stereolithography 1986
Digital press 1993

Lithography (from Greek λίθος - lithos, 'stone' + γράφω - graphο, 'to write') is a method for printing using a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. Lithography originally used oil or fat. However, in modern times, the image is now made of polymer applied to anodized aluminium plates. The smooth surface is divided into (1) hydrophilic regions that accept a film or water and while damp these areas reject ink, and (2) hydrophobic (water repelling) regions which accept ink because the surface tension is higher on the greasier image area which remains dry because the water will part and run off the greasy image. This process is quite different to gravure or intaglio printing where a plate is engraved, etched or stippled to make cavities to contain the printing ink, and in woodblock printing and letterpress ink (non waterproof) is applied to the raised surfaces of letters or images.

Invented in 1796 by Bavarian author Alois Senefelder as a low-cost method of reproducing artwork,[1][2] lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or another suitable material. Most books, indeed all types of high-volume text, are now printed using offset lithography, the most common form of printing production. The word "lithography" also refers to photolithography, a microfabrication technique used to make integrated circuits and microelectromechanical systems, although those techniques have more in common with etching than with lithography.

Lithography: a modus utilized in offset printing. Offset printing principally covers the idea that the printing plate, printing and non printing surfaces exist. Contact between ink, water and the printing plate is the norm. Initially, use of oil and fat was common.


The principle of lithography

Lithography stone and mirror-image print of a map of Munich.

Lithography uses simple chemical processes to create an image. For instance, the positive part of an image would be a hydrophobic, or "water hating" chemical, while the negative image would be hydrophilic or "water loving". Thus, when the plate is introduced to a compatible printing ink and water mixture, the ink will adhere to the positive image and the water will clean the negative image. This allows a flat print plate to be used, enabling much longer and more detailed print runs than the older physical methods of printing (e.g., intaglio printing, Letterpress printing).

An example of a 19th century lithograph depicting royal Afghan soldiers of the Durrani Empire in Afghanistan

Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1796. In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used (hence the name "lithography"—"lithos" (λιθος) is the ancient Greek word for stone). After the oil-based image was put on the surface, a solution of gum arabic in water was applied, the gum sticking only to the non-oily surface. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite.


Lithography on limestone

Lithography works because of the mutual repulsion of oil and water. The image is drawn on the surface of the print plate with a fat or oil-based medium (hydrophobic), which may be pigmented to make the drawing visible. A wide range of oil-based media is available, but the durability of the image on the stone depends on the lipid content of the material being used, and its ability to withstand water and acid. Following the drawing of the image, an aqueous solution of gum arabic, weakly acidified with nitric acid HNO3 is applied to the stone. The function of this solution is to create a hydrophilic layer of calcium nitrate salt, Ca(NO3)2, and gum arabic on all non-image surfaces. The gum solution penetrates into the pores of the stone, completely surrounding the original image with a hydrophilic layer that will not accept the printing ink. Using lithographic turpentine, the printer then removes any excess of the greasy drawing material, but a hydrophobic molecular film of it remains tightly bonded to the surface of the stone, rejecting the gum arabic and water, but ready to accept the oily ink.[3]

When printing, the stone is kept wet with water. Naturally the water is attracted to the layer of gum and salt created by the acid wash. Printing ink based on drying oils such as linseed oil and varnish loaded with pigment is then rolled over the surface. The water repels the greasy ink but the hydrophobic areas left by the original drawing material accept it. When the hydrophobic image is loaded with ink, the stone and paper are run through a press which applies even pressure over the surface, transferring the ink to the paper and off the stone.

A 1902 lithograph map (original size 33×24 cm)

Senefelder had experimented in the early 1800s with multicolor lithography; in his 1819 book, he predicted that the process would eventually be perfected and used to reproduce paintings.[1] Multi-color printing was introduced through a new process developed by Godefroy Engelmann (France) in 1837 known as Chromolithography.[1] A separate stone was used for each colour, and a print went through the press separately for each stone. The main challenge was of course to keep the images aligned (in register). This method lent itself to images consisting of large areas of flat color, and led to the characteristic poster designs of this period.

The modern lithographic process

Sea anemones from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature) of 1904

The earliest regular use of lithography for text was in countries using Arabic, Turkish and similar scripts, where books, especially the Qu'ran, were sometimes printed by lithography in the nineteenth century, as the links between the characters require compromises when movable type is used which were considered inappropriate for sacred texts.

High-volume lithography is used today to produce posters, maps, books, newspapers, and packaging — just about any smooth, mass-produced item with print and graphics on it. Most books, indeed all types of high-volume text, are now printed using offset lithography.

In offset lithography, which depends on photographic processes, flexible aluminum, polyester, mylar or paper printing plates are used in place of stone tablets. Modern printing plates have a brushed or roughened texture and are covered with a photosensitive emulsion. A photographic negative of the desired image is placed in contact with the emulsion and the plate is exposed to ultraviolet light. After development, the emulsion shows a reverse of the negative image, which is thus a duplicate of the original (positive) image. The image on the plate emulsion can also be created through direct laser imaging in a CTP (Computer-To-Plate) device called a platesetter. The positive image is the emulsion that remains after imaging. For many years, chemicals have been used to remove the non-image emulsion, but now plates are available that do not require chemical processing.

Lithography press for printing maps in Munich

The plate is affixed to a cylinder on a printing press. Dampening rollers apply water, which covers the blank portions of the plate but is repelled by the emulsion of the image area. Ink, which is hydrophobic, is then applied by the inking rollers, which is repelled by the water and only adheres to the emulsion of the image area—such as the type and photographs on a newspaper page.

If this image were directly transferred to paper, it would create a mirror image and the paper would become too wet. Instead, the plate rolls against a cylinder covered with a rubber blanket, which squeezes away the water, picks up the ink and transfers it to the paper with uniform pressure. The paper rolls across the blanket drum and the image is transferred to the paper. Because the image is first transferred, or offset to the rubber drum, this reproduction method is known as offset lithography or offset printing.

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 first introduced by Dahlgren instead of the old method which is still used today on older presses (conventional dampening), which are rollers covered in molleton (cloth) which absorbs the water. This increased control over the water flow to the plate and allowed for better ink and water balance. Current dampening systems include a "delta effect or vario " which slows the roller in contact with the plate, thus creating a sweeping movement over the ink image to clean impurities known as "hickies".

The advent of desktop publishing made it possible for type and images to be manipulated easily on personal computers for eventual printing on desktop or commercial presses. The development of digital imagesetters enabled print shops to produce negatives for platemaking directly from digital input, skipping the intermediate step of photographing an actual page layout. The development of the digital platesetter in the late twentieth century eliminated film negatives altogether by exposing printing plates directly from digital input, a process known as computer to plate printing.

Microlithography and nanolithography

'City of Words', lithograph by Vito Acconci, 1999

Microlithography and nanolithography refer specifically to lithographic patterning methods capable of structuring material on a fine scale. Typically features smaller than 10 micrometers are considered microlithographic, and features smaller than 100 nanometers are considered nanolithographic. Photolithography is one of these methods, often applied to semiconductor manufacturing of microchips. Photolithography is also commonly used in fabricating MEMS devices. Photolithography generally uses a pre-fabricated photomask or reticle as a master from which the final pattern is derived.

Although photolithographic technology is the most commercially advanced form of nanolithography, other techniques are also used. Some, for example electron beam lithography, are capable of much higher patterning resolution (sometime as small as a few nanometers). Electron beam lithography is also commercially important, primarily for its use in the manufacture of photomasks. Electron beam lithography as it is usually practiced is a form of maskless lithography, in that no mask is required to generate the final pattern. Instead, the final pattern is created directly from a digital representation on a computer, by controlling an electron beam as it scans across a resist-coated substrate. Electron beam lithography has the disadvantage of being much slower than photolithography.

In addition to these commercially well-established techniques, a large number of promising microlithographic and nanolithographic technologies exist or are emerging, including nanoimprint lithography, interference lithography, X-ray lithography, extreme ultraviolet lithography, magnetolithography and scanning probe lithography. Some of these emerging techniques have been used successfully in small-scale commercial and important research applications. Surface-charge lithography, in fact PDMS can be directly patterned on polar dielectric crystals via pyroelectric effect[4], Diffraction lithography[5]

Lithography as an artistic medium

Smiling Spider by Odilon Redon

During the first years of the nineteenth century, lithography made only a limited impact on printmaking, mainly because technical difficulties remained to be overcome. Germany was the main centre of production during this period. Godefroy Engelmann, who moved his press from Mulhouse to Paris in 1816, largely succeeded in resolving the technical problems, and in the 1820s lithography was taken up by artists such as Delacroix and Géricault. London also became a centre, and some of Géricault's prints were in fact produced there. Goya in Bordeaux produced his last series of prints in lithography - The Bulls of Bordeaux of 1828. By the mid-century the initial enthusiasm had somewhat died down in both countries, although lithography continued to gain ground in commercial applications, which included the great prints of Daumier, published in newspapers. Rodolphe Bresdin and Jean-Francois Millet also continued to practice the medium in France, and Adolf Menzel in Germany.

An 1836 lithograph of Mexican women making tortillas by Carl Nebel.

In 1862 the publisher Cadart tried to launch a portfolio of lithographs by various artists which flopped, but included several superb prints by Manet. The revival began in the 1870s, especially in France with artists such as Odilon Redon, Henri Fantin-Latour and Degas producing much of their work in this way. The need for strictly limited editions to maintain the price had now been realized, and the medium become more accepted.

In the 1890s colour lithography became enormously popular with French artists, Toulouse-Lautrec most notably of all, and by 1900 the medium in both colour and monotone was an accepted part of printmaking, although France and the US have used it more than other countries.

Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm (Lithograph) - Edvard Munch

During the twentieth century, a group of celebrated artists, including Calder, Chagall, Dufy, Léger, Matisse, Miró, and Picasso, rediscovered the largely unexplored art form of lithography thanks to the Mourlot Studios, also known as Atelier Mourlot, a Parisian printshop founded in 1852 by the Mourlot family. The Atelier Mourlot originally specialized in the printing of wallpaper, but was transformed when the founder‘s grandson, Fernand Mourlot, invited a number of 20th-century artists to explore the complexities of fine art printing. Fernand encouraged the painters to work directly on lithographic stones in order to create original artworks that could then be executed under the direction of master printers in small editions. The combination of modern artist and master printer gave rise to unique and visually striking lithographs, which were used as posters to promote the artists’ work.[6][7]

Grant Wood, George Bellows, Alphonse Mucha, Max Kahn, Pablo Picasso, Eleanor Coen, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Susan Dorothea White and Robert Rauschenberg are a few of the artists who have produced most of their prints in the medium. M.C. Escher is considered a master in lithography, and many of his prints were created using this process. More than other printmaking techniques, printmakers in lithography still largely depend on access to a good printer, and the development of the medium has been greatly influenced by when and where these have been established. See the List of Printmakers for more practitioners.

As a special form of lithography, the Serilith process is sometimes used. Serilith 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 serilith technique is used primarily to create fine art limited print editions.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. (1998) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 146 ISBN 0-471-291-98-6
  2. ^ Carter, Rob, Ben Day, Philip Meggs. Typographic Design: Form and Communication, Third Edition. (2002) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 11
  3. ^ A. B. Hoen, Discussion of the Requisite Qualities of Lithographic Limestone, with Report on Tests of the Lithographic Stone of Mitchell County, Iowa, Iowa Geological Survey Annual Report, 1902, Des Moines, 1903; pages 339-352.
  4. ^ Surface-charge lithography for direct pdms micro-patterning S. Grilli, V. Vespini, P. Ferraro, Langmuir 24, 13262-13265 (2008).
  5. ^ Flexible coherent diffraction lithography by tunable phase arrays in lithium niobate crystals M. Paturzo, S. Grilli, S. Mailis, G. Coppola, M. Iodice, M. Gioffré and P. Ferraro Optics Communications 281, 1950-1953 (2008).
  6. ^ History of 20th century lithography by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Braque, Leger at Atelier Mourlot, French Institute Alliance Française
  7. ^ Mourlot, Fernand. Twentieth Century Posters. Wellfleet Press: Secaucus, NJ, 1989
  8. ^ What is a Serilith?

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'LITHOGRAPHY (Gr. XLOo, a stone, and 'y pci 'to write), the process of drawing or laying down a design or transfer, on a specially prepared stone or other suitable surface, in such a way that impressions may be taken therefrom. The principle on which lithography is based is the antagonism of grease and water. A chemically pure surface having been secured on some substance that has an equal affinity for both grease and water, in a method hereafter to be described, the parts intended to print are covered with an unctuous composition and the rest of the surface is moistened, so that when a greasy roller is applied, the portion that is wet resists the grease and that in which an affinity for grease has been set up readily accepts it; and from the surface; thus treated it will be seen that it is an easy thing to secure an impression on paper or other material by applying suitable pressure.

The inventor of lithography was Alois Senefelder (1771-1834); and it is remarkable what a grip he at once seemed to get of his invention, for whereas the invention of printing seems almost a matter of evolution, lithography seems to come upon the scene fully equipped for the battle of life, so that it would be a bold craftsman at the present day who would affirm that he knew more of the principles underlying his trade than Senefelder (q.v.) did within thirty years of its invention. Of course practice has led to dexterity, and the great volume of trade has induced many mechanical improvements and facilities, but the principles have not been taken any further, while some valuable methods have been allowed to fall into desuetude and would well repay some experimentally disposed person to revive.

Lithography may be divided into two main branches - that which is drawn with a greasy crayon (rather illogically called "chalk") on a grained stone, and that which is drawn in "ink" on a polished stone. Whatever may be thought in regard to the original work of the artists of various countries who have used lithography as a means of expression, there can be little doubt that in the; former method the English professed lithographer has always held the pre-eminence, while French, German and American artists have surpassed them in the latter.

Chalk lithography subdivides itself into work in which the black predominates, although it may be supported by 5 or 6 shades of modified colour - this branch is known as "black and tint" work - and that in which the black is only used locally like any other colour. Frequently this latter class of work will require a dozen or more colours, while some of the finest examples have had some twenty to thirty stones employed in them. Work of this description is known as chromo-lithography. Each colour requires a separate stone, and work of the highest quality may want two or three blues with yellows, reds, greys and browns in proportion, if it is desired to secure a result that is an approximate rendering of the original painting or drawing. The question may perhaps be asked: "If the wellknown three-colour process" (see Process) "can give the full result of the artist's palette, why should it take so many more colours in lithography to secure the same result ?" The answer is that the stone practically gives but three gradations - the solid, the half tint and the quarter tint, so that the combination of three very carefully prepared stones will give a very limited number of combinations, while a moderate estimate of the shades on a toned block would be six; so that a very simple mathematical problem will show the far greater number of combinations that the three blocks will give. Beyond this, the chromolithographer has to exercise very great powers of colour analysis; but the human mind is quite unable to settle offhand the exact proportion of red, blue and yellow necessary to produce some particular class say of grey, and this the camera with the aid of colour filters does with almost perfect precision.

Notwithstanding these disadvantages, lithography has these strong points: (1) its utility for small editions on account of its, at present, smaller prime cost; (2) its suitability for subjects of large size; (3) its superiority for subjects with outlines, for in such cases the outline can be done in one colour, whereas to secure this effect by the admixture of the three colours requires marvellously good registration, the absence of which would produce a very large proportion of "waste" or faulty copies; (4) capacity for printing on almost any paper, whereas, at the time of writing, the tri-colour process is almost entirely limited to printing on coated papers that are very heavy and not very enduring.

With regard to the two branches of chalk lithography, the firms that maintained the English supremacy for black and tint work in the early days were Hulemandel, Day and Haghe and Maclure, while the best chromo-lithographic work in the same period was done by Vincent Brooks, the brothers Hanhart, Thomas Kell and F. Kell. In reference to the personal work of professed lithographers during the same period, the names of Louis Haghe, J. D. Harding, J. Needham, C. Baugniet, L. Ghemar, William Simpson, R. J. Lane, J. H. Lynch, A. Maclure and Rimanozcy stand for black and tint work; while in chromolithography J. M. Carrick, C. Risdon, William Bunney, W. Long, Samuel Hodson, Edwin Buckman and J. Lewis have been conspicuous among those who have maintained the standard of their craft. In the foregoing list will be recognized the names of several who have had admirable works on the walls of the Royal Academy and other exhibitions; Mr Lane, who exhibited lithographs from 1824 to 1872, was for many years the doyen of lithographers, and the only one of their number to attain academic rank, but Lynch and John Cardwell Bacon were his pupils, and Bacon's son, the painter John H. F. Bacon, was elected to the Royal Academy in 1903. In the first decade of the 20th century the number of firms doing high-class work, and the artists who aided them in doing it, were more numerous than ever, and scarcely less able, but it would be outside the present purpose to differentiate between them.

The raison d'titre of "stipple" work is its capacity for retransferring without serious loss of quality, for it can scarcely be contended that it is as artistic as the methods just described. Retransferring is the process of pulling impressions from the original stones with a view to making up a large sheet of one or more small subjects, or where it is desired to print a very large number without deterioration of the original or matrix stone. The higher class work in this direction has been done in France, Germany and the United States, where for many years superiority has been shown in regard to the excellence and rapidity of retransferring. To this cause may be attributed the fact that the box tops and Christmas cards on the English market were so largely done abroad until quite recent times. The work of producing even a small face in the finest hand stipple is a lengthy and tedious affair, and the English craftsman has seldom shown the patience necessary for this work; but since the American invention known as Ben Day's shading medium was introduced into England the trade has largely taken it up, and thereby much of the tedium has been avoided, so that it has been found possible by its means to introduce a freedom into stipple work that had not before been found possible, and a very much better class of work has since been produced in this department.

About the year 1868 grained paper was invented by Maclure, Macdonald & Co. This method consists in impressing on ordinary Scotch transfer or other suitable paper a grain closely allied to that of the lithographic stone. It appears to have been rather an improvement than a new invention, for drawing paper and even canvas had been coated previously with a material that adhered to a stone and left on the stone the greasy drawing that had been placed thereon; but still from this to the beautifully prepared paper that was placed on the market by the firm of which the late Andrew Maclure was the head was a great advance, and although the first use was by the ordinary craftsman it was not long before artists of eminence saw that a new and convenient mode of expression was opened up to them.

On the first introduction of lithography the artists of every nation hastened to avail themselves of it, but soon the cumbrous character of the stone, and the fact that their subjects had to be drawn backwards in order that they might appear correctly on the paper, wore down their newly-born zeal, and it was only when the grained paper system was perfected, by which they could make their drawings in the comfort of their studios without reversing, that any serious revival took place. Although excellent work on grained paper had been done by Andrew Maclure, Rimanozcy, John Cardwell Bacon, Rudofsky and other craftsmen, the credit for its furtherance among artists must be given to Thomas Way and his son T. R. Way, who did much valuable pioneer work in this direction. The adhesion of such artists of eminence as Whistler, Legros, Frank Short, Charles Shannon, Fantin Latour, William Strang, Will Rothenstein, Herbert Railton and Joseph Pennell, did not a little to aid lithography in resisting the encroachments of other methods into what may still be considered its sphere. As a means of reproducing effects which an artist would otherwise get by pencil or crayon, it remains entirely unequalled, and it is of obvious advantage to art that twenty-five or fifty copies of an original work should exist, which, without the aid of lithography, might have only been represented by a single sketch, perhaps stowed away among the possessions of one private collector.

In regard to grained paper work, undue stress has often been placed upon the rapid deterioration of the stone, some contending that only a few dozen first-class proofs can be taken; this has led to the feeling that it is unsuited to book illustration, and damage has been done to the trade of lithography thereby. It may be mentioned that quite recently about loo auto-lithographs in black and three colours, the combined work of Mr and Mrs Herbert Railton, have been treated by the Eberle system of etching described below, and although an infinitesimal loss of quality may have arisen, such as occurs when a copper etching is steel faced, some 2000 to 3000 copies were printed without further deterioration, and an edition of vignetted sketches was secured, far in advance of anything that could have been attained from the usual screen or half-toned blocks.

Grained paper is much used in the ordinary lithographic studio for work such as the hill shading of maps that can be done without much working up, but the velvety effects that in the hands of Louis Haghe and his contemporaries were so conspicuous, cannot be secured by this method. The effects referred to were obtained by much patient work of a "tinter," who practically laid a ground on which the more experienced and artistic craftsman did his work either by scraping or accentuation. Where fine rich blacks are needed, artists will do well to read the notes on the "aquatint" and "wash" methods described by Senefelder in his well-known treatise, and afterwards practised with great skill by Hulemandel.

Lithography is of great service in educational matters, as its use for diagrams, wall pictures and maps is very general; nor does the influence end with schooldays, for in the form of pictures at a moderate price it brings art into homes and lives that need brightening, and even in the form of posters on the much-abused hoardings does something for those who have to spend much of their time in the streets of great cities.

According to the census of 1901, 14,686 people in the United Kingdom found their occupation within the trade, while according to a Home Office return (1906), 20,367 persons other than lithographic printers were employed by the firms carrying on the business. As it may be assumed that an equal number are employed in France, Germany, the United States of America and the world at large, it is clear that a vast industrial army is employed in a trade that, like letterpress printing, has a very beneficial influence upon those engaged in it.

Table of contents

Technical Details

The following description of the various methods of lithography is such as may be considered of interest to the general reader, but the serious student who will require formulas and more precise directions will do well to consult one of the numerous text-books on the subject.

Stone and Stone Substitutes

The quality of stone first used by Alois Senefelder, and discovered by him at the village of Solenhofen in Bavaria, still remains unsurpassed. This deposit, which covers a very large area and underlies the villages of Solenhofen, Moernsheim and Langenaltheim, has often been described, sometimes for interested motives, as nearly exhausted; but a visit in 1906 revealed that the output - considerable as it had been during a period little short of a century - was very unimportant when compared to the great mass of carbonaceous limestone existing in the neighbourhood. The strong point in favour of this source of supply, in addition to its unrivalled quality, is the evenness of its stratification, and the fact that after the removal of the surface deposits, which are very thin, the stones come out of large size, in thickness of 3 to 5 in., and thus just suited for lithographic purposes and needing only to be wrought in the vertical direction. Other deposits of suitable stone have been found in France, Spain, Italy and Greece, but transit and the absence of suitable stratification have restricted them to little more than local use. Beyond this, few of the deposits other than in the neighbourhood of Solenhofen have been of the exact degree of density necessary, and the heavier varieties do not receive the grease with sufficient readiness. The desire to find other sources of supply has been stimulated by the social conditions existing in southern Bavaria, for the quarries are largely owned by peasant proprietors, who have very well-defined business habits of their own which make transactions difficult. Among other things, they will seldom supply the highest grades and the largest sizes to those who will not take their proportion of lower quality and smaller sizes; and this, in view of the very expensive transit down the Rhine to Rotterdam, with a railway journey at one end and a sea journey at the other, is a source of difficulty to the importer in other countries.

The earliest substitute for lithographic stone was zinc, which has been used from early days and is now more in demand than ever; it requires very careful printing as the grease only penetrates the material to a very slight extent, and the same must be said in regard to the water. From this cause, when not in experienced hands, trouble is likely to arise; and when this has occurred, remedial methods are much more difficult than with stones. When put away for storage, a dry place is very essential, as corrosion is easily set up. At first the plates were quite thick, and almost invariably grained by a zinc "muller" and acid; now a bath of acid is more generally used, and the operation is known as "passing," while the plates are quite thin, which renders them suitable for bending round the cylinders of rotary machines.

So far we have been dealing with plain zinc, but variations are caused, either by the oxidization of the surface or by coating the plate with a composition closely allied to lithographic stone and applied in a form of semi-solution. This class of plate was first invented by Messrs C. & E. Layton, and a modification was invented by Messrs Wezel and Naumann of Leipzig, who brought its use to a high pitch of perfection for transferred work such as Christmas cards. A treatment of iron plates by exposing them to a high temperature has recently been patented, and has had some measure of success, while the Parker printing plate, which is practically a sheet of zinc so treated as to secure greater porosity and freedom from oxidization, is rapidly securing a good position as a stone substitute.

Preparation of the Stones

In this department the cleanliness so necessary right through the lithographic process must be carefully observed, and a leading point is to secure a level surface and to ensure that the front and back of the stone are strictly parallel, i.e. that the stones stand the test of both the straight edge and the callipers. A good plan to ensure evenness on the surface is to mark the front with two diagonal lines of some non-greasy substance till the top stone (which should not be too small, and should be constantly revolved on the larger one) has entirely removed them. The application of the straight edge from time to time will end in securing the desired flatness, on which so much of the future printing quality depends. The usual method is to rub out with sand, and then rub with pumice and polish with water of Ayr or snake stone. For chalk work, the further work of graining has to be done by revolving a small stone muller on the surface with exceedingly fine sand or powdered glass. Many appliances (some very expensive) have been devised for doing the principal part of this work by machine - none more effective than those methods by which a disk of about 12 in. is kept revolving on a rod attached to the ceiling, guided by hand over all parts of the stone; but for large surfaces the ceiling needs to be rather high so as to allow of a long expanding rod reaching the surface at a moderate angle. When this machine is fitted with friction disk driving, very wide variations of speed are possible, and the machine can be driven so slowly and evenly as to secure a very fair (but not first class) grain, in addition to speedy rubbing out, which is the chief aim of the apparatus.

Preparing a Subject in Chalk or Chalk and Tints

This branch of work is much less in demand than formerly. A grey stone having been selected and finely grained with sand or powdered glass passed through a sieve of 80 to 120 meshes to the lineal inch, and the artist having made his tracing, this tracing is reversed upon the stone with the interposition of a piece of paper coated with red chalk, and the chalk side towards the surface; the lines on the tracing are then gone over with a tracing point, so that a reproduction in red chalk is left upon the stone. It will then be desirable to secure a stock of pointed Lemercier chalks of at least two grades, hard and soft: the pointing is a matter that requires experience, and is done by the worker drawing a sharp pen-knife towards him in a slicing manner as though trying to put a point upon a piece of cheese. Care should be taken that the falling pieces are gathered into a box, or they may do irreparable mischief to the work. The work of outlining is done with No. i or hard chalk, and until experience is gained it will be well to depend chiefly on this grade, securing rich dark effects by tinting or going over the stone in various directions and then finishing with lithographic ink where absolute blacks are required. This ink (Vanhymbeck's or Lemercier's are two good makes) needs careful preparation, the method being to warm a saucer and rub the ink dry upon it, then add a little distilled water and incorporate with the finger. It is of great importance not to use any ink left over for the next day, but always to have a fresh daily supply.

When the drawing is thus completed, it will require what is termed etching, by which the parts intended to receive the printing ink, and already protected by an acid-resisting grease, will be left above the unprotected surface. The acid and gum mixture varies in accordance with the quality of the work and the character of the stone. A patiently executed specimen will, for instance, stand more etching than a hastily drawn one; while a grey stone will require more of the nitric acid than a yellow one. This is one of the most important tasks that a lithographer has to perform. A proportion of 1.5 parts of acid to loo parts of a strong solution of gum arabic will be found to be approximately what is required, but the exact proportion must be settled by experience, a safe course being to watch the action that occurs when a small quantity is placed on the unused margin of the stone. Many put the etching mixture on with a flat camel-hair brush, which should be of good width to avoid streaks. The present writer's own preference is to pour the mixture on to the stone when it is in a slanting position; or it is perhaps better to have an etching trough, a strong box lined with pitch, with bearers at the bottom to prevent the stone coming in contact with it, and a hole through which the diluted acid may pass away for subsequent use. The etching is then done with acid and water poured over the stone while in a sloping position, and the subsequent pouring of a solution of gum arabic completes the preparation. The late Mr William Simpson, whose Crimean lithographs are well known, once stated at the Society of Arts that in his opinion Mr Louis Haghe's reproduction of David Robert's great picture of "The Taking of Jerusalem" was the most important piece of chalk lithography ever executed, and that he well remembered that it took two years to execute it, and that all the combined talent of Messrs Day & Haghe's establishment was utilized in its etching. He stated that, notwithstanding every precaution, it was under-etched, and that after half a dozen impressions the great beauty and brilliancy of the work had departed. This incident indicates sufficiently the serious nature of this part of the lithographer's work.

If the chalk drawing has to have tints, it will be necessary to make as many dusted offsetts as there are colours to be used; in this class of work there are generally only two, - one warm or sandy shade and the other a quiet blue, - and these, with the black and the neutral colour secured by the superposition of the two shades, give an excellent result, of which Haghe's sketches in Belgium may be taken as a leading example.

In making such subjects suitable for present-day printing in the machine, the paper will require to be of a good "rag" quality, free from size and damped before printing. To secure accuracy of register the paper must be kept in a damp cloth to prevent the edges drying, and other machines should be kept available for each of the tints so that all work printed in black in the morning may be completed the same night. In this way large editions might be printed of either original or retransferred work at prices rendering] the prints suitable for high-class magazines.

Preparing a Chromo Lithograph

For this purpose the proceedings will be much the same as those suggested for the black and tint work, but the preliminary tracing will be done in lithographic ink on tracing transfer paper or scratched on gelatine, the lines being subsequently filled in with transfer ink, and will be used as a "key," a guide stone that will not be printed; and the number of stones necessary will probably be much more numerous. The initial point will be to consider if the work is to have the edition printed from it, or whether it has to be transferred after proving and before printing; generally speaking, large subjects such as diagrams or posters will be worked direct, while Christmas cards, postcards, handbills or labels, will be repeated many times on larger stones. For the former class a much wider range of methods is possible, but many of these are difficult to transfer, and the deterioration that arises makes it desirable to limit their use when transferring is contemplated. Therefore, chalk-rubbed tints, varnish tints, stumping, wash, air brush, are the methods for original work, while work that has to be transferred is limited to ink work in line or stipple on a polished stone with the aid of "mediums" as before described, and ink "spluttered" on to the stone from a tooth brush. It should be mentioned that work done on grained paper is more suitable for retransfer than ordinary chalk work, and so is often very useful when a chalk effect is desired from a polished stone. In proving, opaque colours will be got on first, and it will often be found a good plan to put the black on early, for it gives a good idea of how the work is proceeding, and the strength of the touches (for the black should generally be used sparingly) is often pleasantly softened by the semi-opaque colours which should come on next. It is desirable to pull impressions of each colour on thoroughly white paper, and beyond this in important work there should be a progressive colour pattern that will show how the work looked when two, three or more colours were on, for this may at the finish be invaluable to show where error has crept in, and is in any event an immense aid to the machine minder.

In regard to paper, a description made of rag or rag and esparto is most desirable for all work on grained stones, but for work in ink and consequently from polished stone a good coated paper with sufficient "size" in it is frequently desirable; this paper is generally called "chromo" paper.

There is at the present time very little encouragement for the high class of chromo-lithography that was so much in evidence from 1855 to 1875, but there is little doubt that the work could be done equally well by the present-day craftsmen if the demand revived. Belonging to the period mentioned, distinguished examples of chromo-lithography are "Blue Lights," after Turner, by Carrick; "Spanish Peasants" and the Lumley portrait of Shakespeare, by Risdon; "Queen Victoria receiving the Guards," by W. Bunney, after John Gilbert; and the series of chromos after John Leech, produced under the general direction of Vincent Brooks. A small proportion only of the Arundel Society's prints were executed in England, but many reproductions of water-colours after Birket Foster, Richardson, Wainwright and others were executed by Samuel Hodson, James Lewis and others. Perhaps the most consistently good work of modern times has been the reproduction of Pellegrini's and Leslie Ward's drawings for Vanity Fair, which from 1870 to 1906 were with very few exceptions executed by the firm of Vincent Brooks, Day & Son.


A very large proportion of work is got on to the stone by transfer, and there is no more important part of the business perhaps at the present time. When there is so much original lithography done on grained paper by artists of eminence, the transferring of grained paper drawings is the most important. The stone most desirable for this purpose will be neither a grey nor a light yellow, but one that stands mid-way between the two; it should be very carefully polished so as to be quite free from scratches, and brought to blood-heat by being gradually heated in an iron cupboard prepared with the necessary apparatus. The methods that sometimes prevail of pouring boiling water over the stone, heating with the flame of an ordinar y plumber's lamp, or even heating the surface in front of a fire, are ineffective substitutes, for the surface may thus become unduly hot and spread the work, and there is no increased tendency for the chalk to enter into the stone and thus give the work a long life. If there are no colours or registration troubles to be considered, it is well to place the transfer in a damping book till the composition adheres firmly to the finger, before placing it on the stone; it should then be pulled through twice, after which it should be damped on the back and pulled through several times; after this has again been well damped the paper will be found to peel easily off the stone, leaving the work and nearly all the composition attached; the latter should then be very gently washed away.

In cases where the work for some reason must not stretch, such as the hills on a map, it will be necessary to keep the transfer dry and put it on a wet stone, but a piece of the margin of the paper should be tested to see that it is of a class that will adhere to the stone the first time it is pulled through. Unless the adhesion is very complete it may not be safe to pull it through more than once. For a small number of copies a very moderate "etch" is desirable, but for a long run, where the object is to secure a good edition rather than a few good proofs, the Eberle system may be adopted. This method consists in protecting the work with finely powdered resin and then applying the flame of an ordinary plumber's lamp; this will melt the protecting medium round the base of each grain of work and allow of a very vigorous "etch" being applied. As before stated it is not unusual to secure 2000 to 3000 good copies in the machine after this treatment; but the rollers, the ink and the superintendence must be of the best.

When the artist who is not a professed lithographer desires to make tints to his work, a reversed offset on grained paper should be made for each colour; this is done by pulling an impression in the usual way on a hard piece of paper, and while it is yet wet this should be faced with a piece of grained paper and pulled through again, when the grained paper will be found to have received the greater portion of the ink; this should be immediately dusted with offset powder of a red shade to prevent the grease passing into the paper, and the drawing of the tints should then be proceeded with in the usual way. Another method of transfer work is to pull impressions from copper or steel plates in transfer ink; it is in such way that simple etchings like those of Cruikshank, Phiz and others are produced, and nearly all commercial work such as maps, bill heads, &c., are prepared in the same manner.

Beyond this, much work is done in lithographic ink on what is called writing transfer paper, such as circulars, law writing for abstracts, specifications and plans.


The chief items are the hand presses and the machines, whether flat bed or rotary, the principal places of manufacture being Leeds, Otley and Edinburgh. Stimulated by American competition, the standard of excellence in the United Kingdom has been very considerably raised of late years. The rotary machines have only been possible since the more frequent use of aluminium and zinc, but these materials are more suitable to receive transfer than for the general use of an office, the chief reason being that corrections on stone are more easily accomplished and more lasting when done. Preliminary work is therefore frequently done on the stone and transferred to plates for the machine.

The question is very frequently asked as to how the necessary registration of the colours is secured; it may be stated for the benefit of the amateur that in hand printing this is generally done by pricking with a pair of needles through printed marks present on each stone; but in the machine this has been done in different ways, although in quite early days "pointing" or "needling" was done even on the machine. On modern machines this registration depends on the accurate cutting of the edge of the paper, of which at least one corner must be an absolute right angle. The paper is then laid on a sloping board in such a way that the longest of the two true edges gravitates into the gripper of the machine, the stops of which move slightly forward as the gripper closes; simultaneously what is called the "side lay" moves forward automatically to a given extent, and in this way at the critical moment the sheet is always in the same position in regard to the stone, which has already been firmly secured in the bed of the machine.

Quite recently a new method has come into use that is probably destined to be a great aid to the craft in its competition with other methods. This is known as offset printing; it is more a matter of evolution than invention, and proceeds from the method adopted in tin-plate decoration so much used for box-making and lasting forms of advertisement. It consists in bringing a sheet of rubber into contact with the charged stone and then setting-off the impression so obtained upon card, paper, pegamoid, cloth or other material, the elasticity of the rubber making it possible to print upon rough surfaces that have been previously unsuited to lithographic printing. Both flat bed and rotary machines are available for this system, the latter being restricted to zinc or aluminium plates, but giving a high speed, while the former can use both stones and metal plates and may be more effective for the highest grade of colour work; by both classes of machines the finest engraved note headings can be printed on rough paper, and colour work that has for so long been confined to coated or burnished papers will be available on surfaces such as the artists themselves use.

The following treatises may be referred to with advantage by those in search of more detailed information: A Complete Course of Lithography, by Alois Senefelder (R. Ackermann, London, 1819); The Grammar of Lithography, by W. D. Richmond (13th edition, E. Menken, London); Handbook of Lithography, by David Cumming (London, A. & C. Black). The first of these will only be found in libraries of importance; the others are present-day text-books.

(F. V. B.)

<< Lithium

Lithosphere >>

Simple English

File:Lautrec moulin rouge, la goulue (poster)
Toulouse-Lautrec: La Goulou at the Moulin Rouge, a colour lithographed poster (1891)

Lithography (from Greek λίθος - lithos, 'stone' + γράφω - graphο, 'to write') is a method for printing using a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal (steel or aluminium) plate with a completely smooth surface.

Lithography was invented in 1796 by Bavarian author Alois Senefelder as a low-cost method of publishing theatrical works.[1][2] Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.


Lithography originally used an image drawn in wax or other oily substance applied to a lithographic stone as the medium to transfer ink to the printed sheet. In modern times, the image is often made of polymer applied to a flexible aluminum plate.

The flat surface of the plate or stone is slightly roughened, or etched, and divided into hydrophilic (= water-loving) regions that accept a film of water and repel the greasy ink, and hydrophobic regions which repel water and accept ink. The image may be printed directly from the stone or plate (in which case it is reversed from the original image) or may be offset by transfer to a flexible sheet, usually rubber, for transfer to the printed article.

This process is different from gravure or intaglio printing where a plate is engraved, etched or stippled to make cavities to contain the printing ink, and in woodblock printing and letterpress where ink is applied to the raised surfaces of letters or images.

In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used (hence the name "lithography"—"lithos" (λιθος) is the ancient Greek word for stone). After the oil-based image was put on the surface, a solution of gum arabic in water was applied, the gum sticking only to the non-oily surface. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite.


Chromolithography (colour lithography) was invented by Engelmann and son, who were granted a patent in 1837.[3] After that, it was a matter of time before it reached full commercial development.

By using more than one stone, different colours can be added to the same picture. Each colour needs a separate stone. The great posters of such artists as Alphonse Mucha and Toulouse-Lautrec are made like this. Complicated graphics may need twenty or more stones.[4]


  1. Meggs, Philip B. 1988. A history of graphic design. Wiley p146 ISBN 0-471-291-98-6
  2. Carter, Rob, Ben Day, Philip Meggs. 2002. Typographic design: form and communication. 3rd ed, Wiley p11
  3. Twyman, Michael 1970.Lithography 1800–1850. Oxford University Press. p160
  4. “Chromolithography.” Beautiful Birds Exhibit.1999. Cornell University Library. 11 April 2007 <>.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address