Lesson Two:
Art for Protest or Persuasion
(Printmaking Option)


Students examine Chicana/o and earlier prints made for protest and persuasion. After an introduction to various printmaking processes, students compare characteristics of different processes and learn to distinguish multiple original prints from mass-produced reproductions of artworks.


  1. Students learn that printmakers produce multiple originals using processes such as woodcuts and linocuts, lithography, and silkscreen printing. (Students also learn that monoprints are single originals made with printmaking processes.)

  2. Students learn that artists sometimes choose printmaking as a method for communicating to large numbers of people.

  3. Students learn how to compare the effort and expense of printmaking processes with one-of-a-kind art making processes, such as drawing and painting.

  4. Students learn that Chicana/o and Mexican artists have a strong tradition of using prints in an effort to protest or persuade.

  5. Students learn how to distinguish multiple original prints from mass-produced posters and reproductions.

Printmaking Lesson Index

Display the Printmaking Icon. Describe four printmaking processes (relief printing, monoprint, lithography, and silkscreen print) then follow up with questions about specific prints.

RELIEF PRINTS are made from a woodblock, a linoleum block, a metal plate, or from some other surface (such as a rubber stamp, cut vegetable, or found object) with raised and recessed surfaces. Carlos Cortez, the Alfredo Zalce, and José Guadalupe Posada all made relief prints. The artist cuts or carves the surface so that some areas are raised and others are recessed. The artist then distributes a thick ink over the raised surface, usually with a roller called a brayer. He or she than places a piece of paper over the inked surface and applies pressure, with a press, the back of a wooden spoon, a heavy weight, or by some other means. When the artist removes the paper from the surface, the ink has been transferred from the printing surface to the paper, which is now called a print. The print is a reverse image of the printing block or plate.

Pose the following questions about the prints by Carlos Cortez, Alfredo Zalce, and José Guadalupe Posada:

  • What material did the artist use for his block? (Carlos Cortez = linoleum; Alfredo Zalce = wood and José Guadalupe Posada = zinc)
  • Which areas of the image were printed from raised surfaces of the block that the artist did not carve or etch away with acid? (black areas).
  • Which areas of the image were printed from surfaces of the block that the artist carved or etched away? (white areas).
  • Would a black or a white line be harder to carve? Why? (Black, because you must carve out the white around the line, leaving the line itself untouched.)
  • When an artist uses processes that are not repeatable through printing, the print is called a MONOPRINT. For example, an artist can make a monoprint by applying ink to a smooth surface, placing paper over the inked surface, and applying pressure. Ana Laura de la Garza's print is a monoprint. Because the surface itself is not permanently altered in the processes, only one print can be made. An artist can use several colors of ink at a time in making a monoprint. Enrique Chagoya used color transfer, as well as direct marks on paper to make his monoprint.

    Pose the following questions about the prints by Ana Laura de la Garza and Enrique Chagoya:

  • How many colors of ink did de la Garza apply to the metal plate?
  • Why can only one print be made through the monoprinting technique that de la Garza used, while many prints can be made through the relief printing process? (The printing surface is not permanently affected by the application of inks. When the ink is transferred to the paper from the plate, the image does not remain on the plate.)
  • Where did Chagoya make marks directly on his print? (the halo over the sculpture's head)
  • LITHOGRAPHIC PRINTS are made by marking a flat surface (usually a polished stone) with a greasy pencil, which repels water. Luis Jiménez, César Martínez, and Gilbert Luján have all made lithos. The artist seals the unmarked areas by coating the surface with a water-based seal, which is repelled by the grease pencil marks. The printer then rolls oil based ink over the surface. The ink sticks only to the grease marked areas. When the printer places a paper over the surface and applies pressure with a press, the ink is transferred to the paper to make the print.

    Pose the following questions about the prints by César Martínez, Gilbert Luján, and Luis Jiménez.

  • How many separate plates do you think the artist make for each lithograph? (For example, each Luis Jiménez lithograph is printed with six plates.)
  • Why do the lithographs look more like drawings than the relief prints do? (Because the marks are made by drawing with a grease pencil, not by cutting into a hard surface with a cutting tool.)
  • SILKSCREEN PRINTS are made with a piece of fine silk stretched inside a frame. Eduardo Oropeza's print is a silkscreen. The artist blocks the holes in the fabric on some areas with a coating or film. He or she then places a paper under the screen and pulls a squeegee of ink over the screen forcing ink through the unblocked areas onto the paper below. Silkscreen prints, unlike relief prints, monoprints, or lithographs are not reversed.

    Pose the following questions about the Eduardo Oropeza print.

  • How many screens do you think the artist made for each print? (One for each color).
  • Why are the color areas of the silkscreen print so even and flat, compared with lithographs and relief prints? (Because they were made through a finely woven fabric by even pressure from a squeegee).
  • Explain that relief prints, lithographic prints, and silkscreen prints can have one color of ink and one color of paper or they can have more than one color of ink. To make MULTICOLOR PRINTS, the artist must prepare a separate plate, block, or screen for each color and print one piece of paper with each separate color. Luis Jiménez, César Martínez, Gilbert Luján, and Eduardo Oropeza all made multicolored prints. REGISTRATION is the name for the process of lining up each block, plate or screen so that it fits exactly in the same spot on the paper as the other screens. You may want to ask students to attempt to count the number of plates or screens needed to make specific multicolor prints.

    Explain that prints are MULTIPLE ORIGINAL ARTWORKS. When a printer makes a print to see how it looks, that trial print is called an ARTIST'S PROOF. When a printer makes a set of prints from the same printing surface the set of prints is called an EDITION. The artist's proofs and all the prints in the edition are original artworks.

    Commercial offset posters are mass-produced copies of artworks. Such copies are called REPRODUCTIONS. In reproductions, the printer uses a photograph of an original artwork as the source of the image. The printer sometimes adds text, borders, of other elements to the reproduction. A poster reproduction is not an original artwork.

    Pose the following questions about the poster reproduction of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe:

  • The Yolanda López artwork reproduced on this poster is not a print. How do you think Yolanda López made the original artwork? (Oil pastel on white paper).
  • Who do you think added the text and decided on the typeface of the letters? (poster designer)
  • Display Luis Guerra's Texas Farm Worker and explain that this painting was originally made to be reproduced as a poster through a mass-production process. Pose the following questions?

  • Do you think it would have made an effective poster?
  • Why or Why not?
  • Sensory Lesson Index

    Conclude the lesson by asking students to review the situations or events they identified at the end of the preceding lesson. Ask them to begin to imagine how they might plan a relief print to comment on that situation or event. Ask them to start making sketches of shapes or symbols that they might use as part of the image.


    During discussions of the prints, notice whether students are able to describe characteristics of prints made with different processes and whether they can distinguish multiple original prints from mass-produced reproductions. Note whether students are able to propose reasons why artists would choose printmaking as a medium.

    Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:

  • notes on printmaking processes
  • sketches of ideas for prints


    Printmaking Icon

    Reproductions of artworks by Carlos Cortez, Alfredo Zalce, José Guadalupe Posada, Ana Laura de la Garza, Luis Jiménez, César Martínez, Gilbert Luján, Eduardo Oropeza, Yolanda López, and Luis Guerra. See Computer Reproductions.

    © 2001 Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University. All Rights Reserved.