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Chapter 10:
Stone, Plate, and Offset Lithography

Invented in 1798 by Senefelder (as described in Chapter 2), stone lithography was the first printmaking technology that made it possible for an artist to work using traditional techniques to create prints that could rival an original painting in terms of detail, mood, and color variations. Stone lithography rose to prominence in the nineteenth century and is still practiced today by artists and lithography studios, where it is used to create color art for books, as well as for more pedestrian items such as labels, flyers, and posters. Its popularity stems from the fact that 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 steps involved in creating stone lithographs comprise the following:

Step 1. The artist draws or paints on a flat polished stone (typically limestone) with a greasy substance such as a lithographic crayon (a soft waxy/greasy crayon), paint, or pencil. The stone absorbs this greasy substance and retains it.

Step 2. The stone is moistened with water. The parts of the stone that are not protected by the greasy paint absorb the water.

Step 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.

Step 4. A piece of paper is pressed onto the stone such that the ink transfers from the stone to the paper.

The fundamental principle that underlies this technique is the affinity of oil for oil and the repulsion of oil and water. In the following section, we describe in more detail the process steps that are involved in printing images with the aid of stone lithography. Figure 10.1 shows pictures of these process steps.

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