Written by Charles Peacock
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Lithographs are produced, not surprisingly, by a process known as lithography. The process was developed in 1798 by a German named Alois Senefelder. Within twenty years, lithography had moved to the United States and England, revolutionizing the world of image printing.

How Lithographs Work

Lithography was an advancement over the image printing that preceded it because it does not involve using relief or intaglio processes. In these older forms of printing, images were carved into a printing block, then coated with ink and pressed against paper or cloth. The raised part of the block would transfer paint, while the grooves would not--therefore creating an image.

Lithographs are made with a planographic form of printing where there are no raised or non-raised areas. The printing is instead performed with a solid, flat block. It works by utilizing the repellent properties of oil and water.

Lithographs are made by first drawing the image on a piece of limestone, with an oil-based marker (like a crayon). The stone is then coated with water, which absorbs into the non-marked parts of the limestone. An oil-based ink is then applied, which resists the water-soaked areas and applies only to the crayon-covered areas. The stone is then pressed against a piece of paper or cloth, leaving the image behind.

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