An educational resource based on the holdings of HKOP, covering the various techniques in Relief printing, Intaglio, Planography, Screenprint and Others.


Planography refers to printing from a flat surface, as opposed to a raised (relief) or a cut-into (intaglio) surface. Lithography derives its name from the Greek words “lithos” (stone) and “graphein” (to write). The printmaker can use oil-based materials (e.g., crayons, pastels) to draw directly on the stone matrix, or transfer a sketch onto the matrix. These materials are repeatedly stabilized on the matrix with rosin, talcum powder, and gum arabic solution so that the matrix can keep its moisture. Then, ink is rolled onto it with a roller and applied to paper with the lithograph machine.


In 1826, Morrison brought the lithographic press and lithographic technology to China. Within 30 years, there were four lithographic presses in China, and by the 1870s, lithographic printing was widely used. In 1884, the Englishman Ernest Major published a picture-based news paper, the Dianshizhai Pictorial, which introduced readers to a new world of picture stories.


The word “stone” in lithography actually refers to limestone, which is rich in calcium carbonate. This printmaking technique was invented by accident in 1796 when German Alois Senefelder began drawing on limestone with oil pencils. At the time, no publisher would publish his plays, and copperplate etching was expensive. His discovery that Bavarian limestone could be used as matrix material was the beginning of lithography.

Aluminium Plate & Pronto Plate

Lithographic printmaking originally used limestone as the matrix material. However, as printing technology progressed, aluminum and plastic sheets could be treated and also used as matrices for lithography.