Lithography was invented in 1978 by Aloys Senefelder.
Basically prints are made by using a press to transfer an image that was created on stone or a metal plate, to paper.
Modern lithography uses a printing master instead of stone. The printing master is similar to a printing plate except it is made of thin flexible sheets of metal or fiber. A finished printing master is flat in appearance and does not have a raised image as wood a rubber stamp. A printing master can also be made by using photography.
The printing process is as follows;
- First water, then oil-based ink is applied to the surface of the printing master while it is rotating on a cylinder or drum
- The inked image is then transferred mechanically to a receiving surface. This receiving surface can be a flat sheet or rubber or other material that will hold the image.This is the cylinder.
- From the cylinder the image is then transferred onto the paper that glides along on a third drum, the paper impression cylinder.
In order to create a colored print the above process is repeated 4 times, each time with one of four different colored inks, which when printed one on top of the other, makes thousands of other colors. The basic colors are: yellow, cyan,magenta and black.
The artist decides in advance how many prints will be made and this is called the "edition". Each print is signed and numbered and some times embossed, in order to guarantee the authenticity of the edition. The first number is the number of that particular print and the second number indicates the total number of prints made in the edition. Artists proofs are impressions given to the artist, usually up to 10% of the edition. These appear as A/P.
Generally, high quality paper is used for lithograph printing and because of the designated number of prints made the prints are called "limited editions"