Blake also developed his own technique for colour printing. The standard methods of printing colour were either to apply coloured ink onto the drawing on the plate (a long, tedious business) or to print red-, blue- and yellow-inked plates onto the paper in succession. Blake did it differently. For his large colour prints, such as the famous portrait of Newton, reproduced above, Blake applied coloured ink to the plate then finished off the print with water-colour.
As if that weren’t enough, Blake also independently invented monotyping. Montyping is a form of printing in which a drawing is painted directly onto a plate, which is then printed onto paper. This gives the illustrator much more freedom, but can only be used for a single copy. This technique is now recognised as having originally been invented by Castiglione in the seventeenth century, something Blake was apparently not aware of. Blake’s invention, too, was lost with his death, and it was Degas, later in the nineteenth century, whose independent invention of it made the process more widely known.