Born in Berkeley, California, on December 21, 1949, he was raised in a home that had a sweeping view of the San Francisco Bay. This scene kindled his interest in landscape and was one of his earliest drawing subjects. Stephen McMillans etchings and aquatint prints capture the landscapes of California and Washington, and continue to be his primary inspiration.
Stephen studied art at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and also one year at Hornsey College of Art in London, England, where he concentrated on sculpture. It was at Santa Cruz, in 1969, that Steve was first introduced to etching. Since receiving his BFA from UCSC in 1975, he has focused on creating aquatint etchings of landscapes, drawn freehand from photographs he takes.
From 1975 to 1979 he worked at Graphic Arts Workshop in San Francisco. For most of the years from 1979 to 1992 he was an artist in residence at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, where he taught classes in printmaking, and wrote three technical articles about aquatint etching. In 1992 he moved to Petaluma, California, and set up a printmaking studio in his home. In 2006 he moved north to set up a new studio in Bellingham, Washington.