Lithography Don’t Show the Trick, Show the MAGIC

Lithography example image
Lithography example image

Lithography is a printing technique that has been around for centuries. The beauty of lithography lies in its ability to create intricate and detailed images with stunning clarity and precision. What makes lithography truly magical, however, is the way it captures the essence of an image, bringing it to life in a way that other printing techniques cannot match. It’s not about showing off the technical tricks involved in the process but rather about capturing the imagination and inspiring wonder in those who view the final product. Whether used for artistic expression or commercial purposes, lithography remains one of the most versatile and captivating printing techniques available today.

Lithography Process

It involves using a flat stone or metal plate to transfer an image onto paper or another surface. A printing method 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 preferred because they are less bulky.ย 

Lithography – History

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 becomes moist, repelling the ink. Prints can then be taken in a press.ย 

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…

Colour Lithography

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 plateโ€”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 spatteringย ink onto a stone with a toothbrush.

From vintage posters to modern art prints, lithography continues to capture our hearts and minds with its unique blend of artistry and technical skill.


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

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