Adventures in Mokulito

Lithography is a planographic printmaking process- the image is printed from a flat surface. The tern derives from the Greek grapho, “to write or draw”and lithos, “stone.” The process, invented by Alois Senefelder in 1798, traditionally involves creating a drawing on finely grained limestone. Marks are made on the stone with a greasy material, and the printing process depends on the greasy material holding ink, and the rest of the surface repelling ink. Lithography allowed for fine artists to create an image without formal knowledge of printmaking, allowing professional printmakers to run the editions.

In the past few decades, the printmaking world has been making steps to create greener, more accessible, and more economical methods of printmaking. Lithography involves the use of a separate press, specific materials, as well as a considerable amount of space. In response to the changing needs of printmakers, mokulito was born. Originally invented in Japan, the process has been altered and simplified by the Budka family in Poland. The process can be carried out with a few basic materials found in most printmaking studios, and press suitable for woodblock.

I had the privilege of seeing Ewa Budka’s demonstration at SGCI in Milwaukee, but Haven’t been able to really sink my teeth into it and experiment until recently. It’s hard to get access to a print studio where I live, and I don’t have a lot of time or money to be going to a print shop an hour+ out of town.

Traditional lithograph that I used as a model for the mokulito experiments.

Once I was able to get into the studio again and begin working, I used the image to the right as a reference for imagery. I didn’t really want to waste time worrying about the imagery, and I also figured it made sense to have a traditional lithograph to compare things to.

I started out by securing some some birch plywood, and maple hardwood. The hardwood part is important. I didn’t get some maple plywood until later in my experiments… which will make more sense later.

The process starts out pretty much the same as doing a lithograph on limestone: grind down the surface, greasy drawing materials, treat the surface with rosin and talc. With the wood approach, at least the Budka approach, you only use the gum arabic. You can use nitric from what I understand, but I chose not to do that.


I started with the birch plywood, since that’s what I chose to do the image above on. Birch is supposed to give a busier, granier background. Even though I went into the experiments expecting this… I didn’t really care for it. It also fills in the more you ink up, which again, I expected. Again, I didn’t really care for it. asdfsadf

I did another experiment one the maple hardwood. The first hardware store I went to when I was getting materials had the hardwood and not the plywood, and being the overexcited airhead that I was that day I decided to go ahead and get it. I did a drawing, determined to create a great print with this new method that I had been learning…

This is the drawing I did on the hardwood. Turns out, hardwood won’t work. At least not the hardwood I tried. This image is gone forever. Such is the life of a creator.

After taking a little time to be disappointed, it dawned on me that it was most likely the hardwood vs plywood that was the issue. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I do know theres an element of processing that happens in ply that doesn’t happen in hard. Maybe it softens the fibers? I tried to do a little bit of research, but everything I found said plywood was stronger. A few retries of this same piece of wood revealed that it was not meant to work, so I gave up. Off to the store to buy some different wood.

I didn’t think to take pictures of the block, but here is the outcome. This is maple, and I’m so beyond pleased with the results! The maple gives a cleaner background which lasts for multiple prints. Yay!!

Since these experiments I was able to create some more finished pieces, but I’m going to save those for another day so I can talk about them with more depth.

Check out this video by Ewa Budka on this process, it’s really a well done explanation.


Thanks for reading!