Lithography (Design Term)

Lithography example image
Lithography example image

A method of printing from a design drawn directly on a slab of stone or other suitable material. The design is not raised in relief as in woodcut or incised as in line engraving, but drawn on a smooth printing surface. Initially, this surface was provided with a slab of unique limestone, but metal (usually zinc or aluminium) or more recently plastic sheets were prefered because they are less bulky. 

The most recent of the major graphic techniques, lithography, was invented in 1798 by Aloys Senefelder, a Bavarian playwright who experimented with methods to duplicate his plays. The process is based on the antipathy of grease and water: the template is drawn with a greasy crayon and, after it has been chemically fixed, the stone is wetted and then rolled with oily ink, which only adheres to the greasy picture, the rest of the surface becoming moist, repelling the ink. Prints can then be taken in a press. 

Print making: lithography

Laura Bianchi, MA student of Printmaking at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL, demonstrates the techniques of lithography – using carborundum, oil, water and i…

In the 1830s, colour lithographs were invented using a different stone for each pigment. Many distinguished artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries worked in the lithographic technique (beginning with Goya in his old age), drawn by the independence it offers (the artist needs to do little more than draw on a stone or a plate—the printer can handle all the technicalities). Daumier was the first significant figure to do much of his life’s work in lithography. Toulouse-Lautrec was another excellent master of the method and one of the most technically resourceful: he often generated tonal effects by spattering ink onto a stone with a toothbrush.


The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (4th ed.). (2009). Oxford University Press.

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