I learned a great technique in my design class for making watercolor monotype prints without a printing press. Careful working will ensure a good print, but it's a one-shot deal. Even a print that doesn't turn out still has a lot of charm. This is an inexpensive way to play with print techniques without any expensive printing equipment.
What you'll need:
Artist's watercolor paint
Plexiglas or glass sheet
Large baking pan
Choose your image for printing, then reverse the image in a graphics program and print on standard weight paper. I'm using a painting by Ingres called "The Bather" as my print image in this assignment.
Prepare your clear surface for printing by washing with soap and water to remove any dust or oils that will keep the watercolor from adhering to the surface. I'm using a piece of Plexiglas that I had cut to size at my local art store as my print plate. If you're using Plexiglas, make a few passes over your printing surface with the abrasive side of a sponge while washing the first time.
Tape your printed image to the opposite side of the Plexiglas that we just prepped so that the image is facing you when the printing surface is facing up.
Using the image below as a guide, paint directly onto the plate adding little to no water to keep the paint from beading up on the surface. I'm using a tube each of black and white watercolor. Be careful not to get gouache for this technique, since it doesn't transfer properly and can rip the paper while removing from the plate.
Keep in mind that the first layers to be painted onto the plate will be the last ones printed, meaning they will be on the top layer of the print. Layering of paint should be applied quickly in order to not blend and muddy the layer closest to the surface of the plate.
When satisfied with your design, remove the taped image from the back of the plate. Place on a white surface or hold up to the light to check for coverage. Touch up any spots necessary, then allow plate to dry completely.
While the paint is drying on the plate, cut your printmaking paper into equal sizes to fit your plate. I used a 9"x12" piece of Plexiglas and was able to get 6 equal pieces out of my sheet of printmaking paper.
Soak your paper in a pan filled with water, agitating to get all bubbles off the surface of the paper. Leave in bath for at least 5 minutes.
Remove soaked paper from bath, allowing water to run from surface of page.
Place paper between two layers of towel, and press firmly to remove excess water. Immediately position paper evenly over painted image, taking care to leave even space around the edges of the image. Press down firmly on the back of the paper to adhere to the surface of the image.
Carefully peel your image from the paper, moving slowly from one corner to the opposite. Do not allow the paper to sit after transferring the image or the paper will not remove from the plate without tearing. Place your image face up to dry.
Continue this process for remaining prints. You can use the shadow of paint on the plate to give you a guideline for your next print if you'd like. For this project, we took each image further toward abstraction, so each image breaks down a little further into the compositional elements.
After the paper and paint have dried completely, place between two heavy flat objects to press straight. Leave for a few hours in a dry area. I like to press all my images at once, putting a piece of paper between the top print and my flat heavy object. I usually use two text books, or two boards weighted with text books or canned goods.