Micro monoprinting

Print your own unique DNA pictures


Monoprinting means making a design that’s different every time. You're going to be creating some monoprints of a DNA-inspired picture. DNA is a code that tells your cells how to make a person. It’s different for almost every person, just like your monoprints will be! 

Our DNA is in a shape called a double helix, which looks like two threads twisting around each other. Because you're drawing the design for the double helix each time you print the picture, you’ll see that it’s slightly different each time - that's what makes the monoprints unique.  

Be careful!

This activity uses paint and could get messy. Cover the surface that you're working on and make sure that anything that could get stained is out of the way.

You'll need...

  • Something to use as a printing plate – a piece of A4-sized smooth cardboard, a wooden board wrapped in cling film, the lid of a plastic box or a sheet of perspex or acetate

  • Something to roll your prints with like a rolling pin

  • Sponge

  • Cotton buds

  • Paints (any kind, as long as they’re brightly coloured like poster paints or acrylic paints!)

  • A sharp pencil

  • Cartridge paper

  • Instructions

    A sponge with four coloured paints and a paint brush

    1. Begin by choosing a selection of at least 3 paint colours to work with, then place your printing plate (card, acetate or covered wooden board) onto a flat surface.  

    A painted piece of paper

    2. Squeeze your first colour directly from the tube or paint it onto the plate with a brush, trying not to get too close to the edges of the plate.  

    A pencil drawing a double helix

    3. You're going to be drawing a design that looks like DNA - two twisted shapes called helices which are intertwined. Practice drawing the shape on a piece paper first!

    A double helix design drawn in paint

    4. Create a double helix pattern in the paint using a cotton bud or the pointed end of a paintbrush. This will be like carving into the colour. Top tip - make sure the paint is thick and that you draw into its surface quickly (otherwise it will dry).

    A DNA pattern made by printing paint

    5.With your carved helix pattern in the paint - place a piece of A4 cartridge paper onto the printing plate and press it down. Give it a gentle rub with the palm of your hand. After a few seconds, lift it off to reveal your first printed impression! 

    DNA prints made with paint

    6. Now repaint your plate and draw a new helix and press it upside down onto your first design.  Repeat this process or wipe down your plate at any time to start again with a fresh surface…

    A paintbrush on a blue, green and yellow background with a DNA pattern sketched in it

    7. When applying new layers of paint, try different colour combinations. Although these prints can only be created once, traces of their designs will build up the more you use the plate - creating really interesting layers.  

    The science

    Our genome is the full DNA code that makes up a whole person.

    Scientists at the Crick are looking for clues in our genome to help better understand why some people get diseases and others don’t. By finding these clues they can then help those most at risk by providing guidance as to how they can reduce the chances of them developing the disease.