Excerpted from Frank Howell, Monotypes and Collectors Guide
The difference between monotypes and monoprints frequently baffles art buyers and sellers alike! Therefore, a description of that difference is useful at the outset!
A monoprint is one of a series—therefore, not wholly unique. A monoprint begins with an etched plate, a serigraph, lithograph or collagraph. This underlying image remains the same and is common to each print in a given series. Other means of adding pigment or design are then employed to make each print in the series slightly different. The series of monoprints has a limited number of prints and each is numbered.
A monotype is one of a kind, a unique piece of artwork. It is the simplest form of printmaking, requiring only pigments, a surface on which to apply them, paper and some form of press. Frank Howell, a Santa Fe artist who has become an expert with the medium of monotypes, most clearly describes the process:
"Monotypes are pulled impressions that were drawn or painted on a metal or plexiglass plate. The images are created through applications of ink that are rolled, brushed, daubed or otherwise applied and manipulated and then, with the material, usually paper, that is to accept an impression, are “pulled” with the use of a press.
Monotypes are inherently unique because only one or two impressions may be pulled before the ink is used up. Although there may be a second impression, it is quite different from the first in that most of the ink was lifted from the plate in its first pass through the press. The second impression, called a ghost or cognate, is much lighter or thinner and is more of a suggestion of the first."
The "spontaneity" of the monotype process may be misleading, for discipline, knowledge and artistry are prerequisites. Anyone who might be tempted to dismiss monotypes as "quick and easy," the time required to make a monotype is the combined years of experience and knowledge of artist and printer . . . plus the time it takes for the process. All of the techniques and elements of making monotypes--the amount of pressure from the press, types of inks and oils used, how they are applied, etc—require not luck, but tremendous skill, and make the result unique to this process.
NOTE: Collectors should be aware of the relative intrinsic worth of the contemporary works on paper loosely grouped as graphics: commercially produced posters which are photographically or mechanically printed are lowest in value; next in increasing value are the "original prints" such as silk screens/serigraphs, lithographs, etchings, collagraphs; next are the monoprints, each is part of a series but has unique elements; and of highest value, because each is unique, is the monotype. In terms of cost, the monotype fills the gap between lower-priced multiple prints and higher-priced original paintings on paper or canvas.