Monochromes & Mandalas

Process: A Lithography Glossary

Adapted from the Gemini G.E.L. Online Catalogue Raisonné

Rauschenberg employed the technique of lithography to create the Stoned Moon print series. The process itself is a subject of the Stoned Moon Drawing and the unpublished Stoned Moon Book. This glossary is adapted from the Gemini G.E.L. Online Catalogue Raisonné and serves as a companion for reading Rauschenberg’s own notes. For further information on the lithographic process, see the interactive web tutorial, by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


A printing process based on the antipathy of grease and water. The printing elements used are limestone and aluminum or zinc plates, grained to varying degrees of roughness. The image can be produced by photochemical and transfer processes, or be drawn using lithographic crayons and pencils, tusche, chalk, and various grease, lacquer, or synthetic materials. The stone is then washed with a solution, thus chemically producing water-receptive non-printing areas and grease-receptive image areas. The drawing grease is cleaned from the printing surface. A roller bearing greasy printing ink is then rolled over the surface, with the ink adhering only to drawn grease-receptive image areas. Finally, paper is laid on top of the stone or plate, which is passed through a lithography press for transfer. Lithography is often described as a surface or planographic printing process in order to distinguish it from the relief and intaglio processes.

Click on images to view larger.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon notebook, ca. 1969. Robert Rauschenberg Archives, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon Drawing, 1969 (detail)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon Book, Page 6, 1970 (detail)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon Book, Page 11, 1970 (detail)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon notes, ca. 1969. Robert Rauschenberg Archives, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon Book, Page 10, 1970 (detail)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Stoned Moon Drawing, 1969, and Stoned Moon Book, Page 9, 1970 (details)

Malcolm Lubliner (b. 1933), Robert Rauschenberg producing Stoned Moon Series at Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, 1969
Courtesy the artist; Craig Krull Gallery, Los Angeles; and The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. © Malcolm Lubliner

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), Sky Garden (Stoned Moon), 1969. Lithograph and screenprint, 89 1/4 x 42 inches (226.7 x 106.7 cm). © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Gemini G.E.L. / Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

airbrushed drawing  

In lithography, an image-making technique in which tusche is blown onto a plate or stone instead of being applied by brush or pen. The tool used is an airbrush, which is generally attached to an electric compressor that can supply air to a precision spray gun. Airbrushes are particularly useful when creating an even gradation of tone or color.


A method of preparing an aluminum lithography plate that contributes to the resistance of grease and oil by providing a special even texture receptive to holding a drawing on the matrix.


A process whereby gradations of tone in a photograph, drawing, or painting are translated into small dots by being photographed through a glass or contact film screen. The screen simulates the grays produced by commercial printing by reducing tones to a series of dots. These dots vary in size, shape, and spacing in direct proportion to the tones they represent.

lithographic crayon and lithographic pencil  

Drawing tools used in lithography to create the grease image on the printing element. These materials, which are manufactured in varying degrees of hardness, are also used in creating hand-drawn screenprint stencils.

offset lithography  

A modern development of lithography in which the image is lifted from the stone or plate by a rubber roller which then reprints it onto paper. An advantage of this double printing procedure is that it re-reverses the image, which is then printed in its original direction.

photochemical (or photomechanical)  

A term referring to the group of processes that allow a photographic image to be transferred to a printing element. This is frequently done by means of a dot screen through which the continuous gradations of photography are translated into spots of black and white.


A form of lithography in which light-sensitive plates or stones are exposed to a photographic image, usually by means of a halftone screen.

photo offset lithography  

A printing process in which the image is photographically transferred to the stone or plate, which is then inked and indirectly transferred to an intermediary, such as a rubber cylinder on an offset press, which then transfers the inked image to the paper. Offset printing is primarily used for commercial purposes.


A print made by a stencil technique in which ink is forced through stretched mesh fabric (silk, cotton, nylon, or metal) onto paper beneath the frame. The image is created by blocking out parts of the mesh in a variety of ways such as hand-painting the screen with glue or lacquer; applying a cutout design; or by painting a light-sensitive resist on the screen which is then developed photographically. Unlike many of the other printing media, there is no mirror reversal in screenprinting, which is very versatile as it can be placed on almost any material.

transfer paper  

In lithography, instead of drawing directly on the stone or plate, the artist can draw on transfer paper, a sheet of paper that has been covered with a soluble surface layer. The transfer is effected by placing the paper face down on the moist stone or plate and passing it through the printing press. This action dissolves the soluble layer thus adhering the greasy drawing to the stone. Advantages include ease of transport and the fact that the image is automatically reversed so that the final result is in the original direction. The transferred image may be easily reworked on the stone.


A drawing medium manufactured in liquid and solid states, made from similar ingredients such as lithographic crayons and pencils. Litho tusche can be diluted in water, turpentine, or other solvents to produce a liquid medium for drawing on stone, aluminum plates, transfer paper, acetate, or Mylar. Tusche is also used in creating hand-drawn screenprint stencils.

wash drawing  

In lithography, a drawing made with diluted tusche. This technique gives the artist the freedom to draw spontaneously using a wide range of continuous tones directly on the stone, plate, or transfer paper.

Monochromes & Mandalas