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June 2020 

How are lithographs made?

Many of the lithographs we sell are made by the artists in collaboration with master printmaker Aime Maeght in Paris during the decades following the Second World War. They show lithography often at its most sophisticated and intricate; as seen in the works of such artists as Marc Chagall and Fernand Leger or at its most bold and colourful, as in examples by Alexander Calder or Joan Miro, all of whom were great exponents of the medium.

They are made using pigment inks and archival substrates (vellum) to ensure museum-quality results that guarantee that, when cared for properly, they will outlast a life- time, with little or no decay showing over 100 years and as time passes, they only become more rare and valuable for the collector.


Lithographs are prints that are named after their unique process and techniques. The process involves drawing with greasy artists' quality crayons or a liquid called tusche, on a polished slab of limestone or alluminum plates. The term is derived from the Greek words for stone, “litho” and drawing, “graph”.

When the greasy image is ready to be printed, a chemical mixture is applied across the surface of the stone or plate in order to create a bond. This surface is then dampened with water. The water only adheres to the blank, non-greasy areas. Oily paint is then applied using a roller which sticks to the greasy imagery and not to areas protected by the water. Damp paper is then placed on top of this surface and run through a press to transfer the image to paper.

Sometimes the works are marked as 'signed in the stone' - particularly in the examples of Miro and Leger; which adds even greater value to the resulting prints. 


They are printed on vellum, which is a prepared animal skin or "membrane". Parchment is another term for this material, and if vellum is distinguished from this, it is by vellum being made from calfskin, as opposed to that from other animals, or otherwise being of a higher quality. 

This video from the Khana Academy  shows the process in intricate detail. 


Fernand Leger, Femme et enfant, original lithograph signed in the stone, 1955, available from the Slade House shop.

Alexander Calder, abstract, original lithograph, 1960, available from the Slade House shop.

Can't find what your looking for?

Slade House only sells a selection of our collection of modern master lithographs online.

Please get in touch if you have a particular request or would like to see our wider collection. We are  always happy to help you source a specific work for you so do get in touch if you need advice...

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