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(lĭthŏg`rəfē), type of planographic or surface printing. It is distinguished from letterpress (relief) printing and from intaglio printing (in which the design is cut or etched into the plate). Lithography is used both as an art process and as a commercial printingprinting,
means of producing reproductions of written material or images in multiple copies. There are four traditional types of printing: relief printing (with which this article is mainly concerned), intaglio, lithography, and screen process printing.
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 process. In commercial printing the term is used synonymously with offset printing.

The Process

All planographic printing is based on chemical action, and lithography is based on the mutual antipathy of oil and water. As the name [Gr.,=writing on stone] implies, a lithograph is printed from a stone (except in commercial processes, where grained metal or plastic plates are employed). The process was invented c.1796 by the playwright Aloys SenefelderSenefelder, Aloys
, 1771–1834, German lithographer, b. Prague. Senefelder invented lithography in Munich c.1796. In 1818 he published a full account of the nature and the history of his invention. The English translation, A Complete Course of Lithography, appeared in 1819.
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, and the Bavarian limestone that he employed is still considered the best material for art lithography.

The slab of stone is ground to a level surface, which may be of coarse or fine texture as desired. The drawing is made in reverse directly on the stone with a lithographic crayon or ink that contains soap or grease. The fatty acid of this material interacts with the lime of the stone to form an insoluble lime soap on the surface, which will accept the greasy printing ink and reject water. Accordingly, those parts of the stone that have been drawn upon have an affinity for ink.

Sometimes the drawing is made on paper and transferred to a heated stone by pressure. This is known as a transfer lithograph and does not require the artist to reverse his or her drawing. Next, the surface of the stone untouched by grease is desensitized to it, and the portions drawn upon are fixed against spreading by treatment with a gum arabic and nitric acid solution. The grease has now penetrated the stone, and the drawing is washed off with turpentine and water. The stone is ready to be inked with a roller and printed, but it must be kept moist. The printing requires a special lithographic press with a sliding bed passing under a scraper.


As a printing process lithography is probably the most unrestricted. It produces tones ranging from intense black to the most delicate gray as well as a full range of colors. It also simulates with equal facility the effects of pencil, pen, crayon, or brush drawing. White lines are readily produced by scratching through the drawing on the stone. Several hundred fine proofs can be taken from a stone. The medium was exploited by many artists in the 19th cent., including Goya, Delacroix, Daumier, Gavarni, Manet, Degas, Bonnard, Whistler, and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose postersposter,
placard designed to be posted in some public place for purposes of commercial announcement or propaganda. Advertising makes wide use of posters, as do charitable and political organizations. In ancient civilizations a simple form of written public announcement was used.
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 are among the most celebrated lithographic masterworks. In the United States, A. B. Davies, George Bellows, Joseph Pennell, and Currier and Ives are among the many artists noted for their lithographs.

For the commercial reproduction of art works, photolithography has played an increasingly important role. In this process a photographic negative is exposed to light over a gelatin-covered paper. Wherever the light does not strike the gelatin, the latter remains soluble while the other parts are rendered insoluble. When the soluble portions are washed away, the pattern to be printed can be inked and transferred to the stone or plate. Color lithography and color photolithography require as many stones or plates as the number of colors employed. The commercial printing applications of the lithographic process are vast in scope and almost unlimited in number.


See J. Pennell and E. Pennell, Lithographs and Lithographers (1915); V. Strauss, Lithographers Manual (2 vol. 1958); W. Weber, A History of Lithography (1966); F. H. Man, Artists' Lithographs: A World History (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a method of printing in which an impression is produced by transferring ink under pressure from a flat printing plate directly onto the paper. (The Russian term, litografiia, may also denote an item produced by means of lithography or an enterprise specializing in printing by such a method.) Lithography was the prototype of flat-bed printing.

The printing plate in lithography is the surface of a stone (limestone), which may be smooth (for reproducing pen graphics) or grainy (for reproducing pencil drawings); the image is applied to it in greasy india ink (with a brush or pen) or lithograph pencil. The image is often transferred to the stone from a drawing made on special lithograph paper (granulated paper). Printing takes place after chemical treatment of the stone and subsequent application of water and then ink to the printing plate.

Lithography was invented in 1798 in Germany by A. Sene-felder; in 1806 he opened the first lithography studio, in Munich. Similar studios were opened in 1816 in Paris and St. Petersburg and in 1822 in London. In the 19th century lithography was widely used to reproduce pictures and to make black-and-white and multicolored prints (made with several stones), book illustrations, maps, labels, posters, announcements, and visual aids. Prints were made on manual presses; large-circulation impressions were made on cylinder lithographic presses. Analogues and modifications of lithography, such as autolithography, chromolithography, photolithography, oleography, lithogravure, and algraphy, appeared later. In the 1930’s the more advanced process of offset printing began to replace lithography. Although lithography lost its industrial importance, it remains the technique for making artistic prints, especially in the form of autolithography.


The specific language of artistic lithography took shape in the 1820’s in France, under the influence of romanticism. Such artists as the Spaniard F. Goya and the Englishman R. P. Bonington, who were living in France, worked in lithography. Animal and genre series were done by T. Géricault, and a number of artists (N. T. Charlet and D. A. Raffet) made prints devoted to the Napoleonic wars. There were portrait lithographers (A. Deveria) and those who did historical genre scenes (E. Isa-bey). Landscape lithography was widespread in France and England. The greatest master of romantic lithography was E. Delacroix, who did several series of illustrations on themes from the works of Goethe and Shakespeare; his technique is characterized by scratching of the background, by sharp outlines, and by subtle shading.

The most common genre in the early period of lithography was the caricature of customs (H. Monnier and L. Boilly), which after the July Revolution of 1830 was replaced by political and social caricature (Grandville, C. J. Traviès, and A. G. Decamps). The publicistic acuteness of images and the masterful use of the particular features of the technique distinguish the work of H. Daumier, the outstanding master of lithography of the mid-19th century, an artist who exerted an important influence on the subsequent development of the medium. Many lithographers produced social caricatures; among the most outstanding were P. Gavarni and A. Cham. In Germany, the prints of A. von Menzel were especially lifelike. Lithography played a large role in the art of many Latin American artists of the first half of the 19th century—the representatives of costumbrismo.

In Russia during the first half of the 19th century the techniques of lithography attracted such great painters and graphic artists as A. O. Orlovskii, O. A. Kiprenskii, A. G. Venetsianov and his students, and K. P. Briullov. In the 1820’s and 1830’s, Russian artists were interested mainly in landscapes (S. F. Galaktionov, A. P. Briullov, A. E. Martynov, and K. P. Beggrov). Genre lithographs by I. S. Shchedrovskii, as well as moralistic and satirical prints by M. L. Nevakhovich and V. F. Timm, appeared in the mid-19th century; the tradition was continued in the second half of the 19th century by such masters of illustration and social caricature as P. M. Shmel’kov, P. M. Boklevskii, and A. I. Lebedev.

In the 1840’s a noticeable decline began in the art of lithography as a result of its replacement in journals by wood engraving. A revival began in the late 1860’s. In France, E. Manet found new artistic possibilities for lithography that more fully revealed the texture of the material. During this period impressionist artists—among them Renoir, Dégas, and Pissarro—often used lithography. Impressionism also appeared in an original form in the lithography of Germany (L. Corinth, M. Liebermann, and M. Slevogt) and America (J. Whistler). In the late 19th century symbolism and art nouveau left traces in lithography (O. Redon and E. Carrière in France, F. Rops in Belgium, and E. Munch in Norway).

A special place in lithography of the turn of the 20th century belongs to the color print, which was often used in posters (H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, M. Denis, P. Bonnard, and E. Vuillard in France). The tradition of Daumier was continued in the social criticism of the prints of J. L. Forain and T. Steinlen in France, F. Brangwyn in England, and K. Kollwitz in Germany. New interest in lithography arose in Russia during the last third of the 19th century, mainly in landscapes by I. I. Shishkin, illustrations and genre scenes by I. E. Repin, and portraits by V. A. Serov. Near the end of the first decade of the 20th century, lithographic landscapes were produced by K. F. Iuon, K. F. Bogaevskii, and V. I. Sokolov, and in the period 1910–20, N. S. Goncharova and M. F. Larionov produced lithographs and lithographed books.

After World War I (1914–18) a number of series and individual prints setting forth sharp social protest were made by the German expressionists M. Beckmann, G. Grosz, and E. Barlach; in the 1930’s, Kollwitz’s lithographs were characterized by antifascist tendencies. In the 20th century the variety of expressive resources of lithography has increased to include the full range of intonations, from subtle lyricism and deep philosophical images to publicistic passion and the propaganda of ideas of liberation.

Some of the great masters of the 20th century produced lithographs, including Matisse, Picasso, and Chagall in France; O. Kokoschka in Austria; H. Erni in Switzerland; H. T. Richter in the German Democratic Republic; O. Dix in the Federal Republic of Germany; F. Topolski in Great Britain; M. Švabinsky in Czechoslovakia; G. Mucchi in Italy; and D. Siqueiros and P. O’Higgins in Mexico. Soviet lithography is represented by the work of M. V. Dobuzhinskii (scenes of Petrograd), V. A. Vatagin (animal subjects), G. S. Vereiskii (portraits), A. P. Ostroumova-Lebedeva and P. V. Kuznetsov (landscapes), V. V. Lebedev (nudes), and B. M. Kustodiev, E. I. Charushin, M. S. Rodionov, K. I. Rudakov, E. A. Kibrik, and V. M. Kona-shevich (book illustrations).


Friedländer, M. Litografiia. Leningrad, 1925. (Translated from German; contains an article by V. V. Voinov, “Litografiia v Rossii.”)
Korostin, A. F. Nachalo litografii v Rossii. Moscow, 1943.
Korostin, A. F. Russkaia litografiia XIX v. Moscow, 1953.
Suvorov, P. I. Iskusstvo litografii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1952. [Gertsenberg, V. R.] Sovremenny sovetskii estamp. Moscow, 1960.
Flekel’, M. I. Iskusstvo i poligrafiia. Moscow, 1963.
Nikanchikova, E. A., and A. L. Popova. Tekhnologiia ofsetnoi pechati. Moscow, 1966.
50 let sovetskogo iskusstva: Grafika [album]. Moscow [1966].
Pennel, E. R. Lithograph and Lithographers. London. 1915.
Mayer, R. Die Lithographie: Eine Einführung. Dresden [1955].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A technique used for integrated circuit fabrication in which a silicon slice is coated uniformly with a radiation-sensitive film, the resist, and an exposing source (such as light, x-rays, or an electron beam) illuminates selected areas of the surface through an intervening master template for a particular pattern.
(graphic arts)
A printing process in which a design is sketched with an oily ink or a litho crayon on a flat, smooth stone; in printing, the entire surface of the stone is wetted, and the design areas repel the water, but accept a greasy ink; a clean impression is then made by pressing a sheet of paper against the surface of the stone and running the whole through a press.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A printing technology that dates back to 1798 when Alois Senenfelder developed a method of imaging limestone from which a print was produced. Based on the principle that oil and water do not mix, an aluminum or plastic plate is coated with a photopolymer film that is exposed to light through a photographic mask. The exposed areas are chemically "hardened," and the unexposed areas are dissolved when the plate is put through a chemical process, which is the next stage. When printing a page, the plate is dampened, and the water adheres only to the unexposed, non-image areas, which repell the greasy ink that is applied to the plate immediately thereafter.

The most common lithographic printing uses the offset method, in which the ink is "offset" onto a rubber-coated cylinder that is pressed against the paper. See offset press.
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