Chromo Litho or Chromolithography Postcards


In the mid 1800's an intoxicating world of colour printing arrived. Previously printers had relied on hand colouring of monchrome images. Chromolithography was the first method capable of repeat printing of multi-color images and it prevailed on postcards published in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

Chromolithography Postcard

If you use a magnifier to look at an early colour postcard you will see solid blocks of colour in a variety of sizes and shapes, postcards using later (more efficient but less pleasing) technologies display the colour as a series of evenly sized dots.

Chromolithography was an expensive and labour intensive process requiring considerable skill. Based on lithography (where paper is pressed to a flat inked surface) it used stone blocks or zinc plates onto which parts of an image had been drawn using an oil based medium. There was one stone or plate for each colour of the image. Postcards were printed in multiple impressions, each block adding another very carefully positioned colour layer.

The postcard artist produced the original watercolour or oil painting. The print company employed highly skilled lithographic artists who would transfer the designs by hand onto limestone printing slabs. The litho artists worked in reverse and produced outline image frames with one outline for each color

The technology was perfected in Bavaria and resulted in many early European postcard publishers printing their product in that country.

Attached are two rather nice Art Nouveau examples published by Raphael Tuck.


Chromo Litho Postcard


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