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Lithography is based upon the principle that oil and water do not mix. Originally developed as a method to easily mass-reproduce images, printmakers also use this process to create fine print editions. Rather than etching into a plate or carving into block, the printer draws directly onto the surface of a limestone block with a wax crayon.
Next, the plate is dampened with water, and water resistant ink rolled onto the stone. The water repels the ink and it adheres to the wax drawing, allowing only the image to print onto paper when it is pressed against the stone.
The stone can be inked and printed hundreds of times over, allowing for the mass production of illustrations or printing large editions. Color can be added to the image later by hand, or different stones can be used to create chromolithograph.
Lithography was developed in 1796 by an obscure German playwright, Alois Senefelder, while looking for an easy reproduction method for his documents
Lithography developed into the predominant form of image reproduction in the 1800 and 1900s. It continues to be a major method in present day for mass production, though the technology has advanced considerably
Fine artists use the traditional stone method today to take advantage of the soft, feathery effects created by the process