Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Step - by - Step Reduction Linoleum Block Printing

Hi. My name is Diane Podolsky (Anniepod) and it was suggested that this information may be of use to some of the members of Printsy, so I was given permission to post it here.

This post will show step by step photographs and give instructions on creating a four color reduction linoleum block print. First, you must decide how big your edition will be (how many prints you want to end up with) and cut your paper in advance. You should always cut a few more pieces of paper, as you may loose prints due to mis-registration (lining up print with paper) during the printing process. As you get more experienced, you will become better at registration.

Image #1 - shows a plain piece of linoleum, which, in this case, is a gold color (linoleum also comes in a gray color). My preference is for unmounted linoleum, which mean there is no wood block attached to the back of the piece of linoleum.

Image #2 -shows a mixture of the the first color (an orange/gold) that was applied to the block via a rubber brayer. Also photographed is what this looks like when it is printed. You need to repeat the printing process for as many prints as you would like because once you reduce your block (see below), you cannot go back (you will see what I mean as you read on)

Linoleum block prints can be done by hand, but I have a small etching press and prefer to print the inked blocks via my press because it gives a more even distribution of the ink. This is also why I tend to use unmounted linoleum, since a piece of mounted linoleum would be difficult to print on my etching press. This is totally a personal aesthetic preference. Hand printing adds its own unique quality to a print and may be the preference of the printer.

After printing the first flat color, I draw my image onto the block. In this case, I drew my image directly on the block, keeping in mind that the image will print in reverse. In a future post, I will discuss drawing transfer methods.

Image #3 - shows the first cut made into the block; thereby "reducing" the block. The areas I cut away are the areas I want to remain orange, which is part of the sky, some outlining of the houses and the windows of the houses.

Image #4 - shows mixing the second color, which will be a bright blue. After the color is mixed, I will roll out the ink with the brayer and apply the ink to the block. The ink will not go where the block has been reduced because those areas of the block are recessed. The ink sits on the top of the block. Another term for this is "relief printing". Image #4a (to the right) shows the block with the blue ink applied.

Image #5 - shows how the block prints after the blue has been printed over the orange. (This print is hanging on my drying line but I didn't rotate the image so you could see a logical view of the piece). Again, notice that where the block was reduced before applying the blue ink, the paper remains orange. I use an "eyeball" registration method, meaning I just sort of line it up by eye. Very low tech. There are more precise mathematical ways to do this, but this is what works for me and how I have always registered my prints. (which means I will never be hired to work in a print shop!!)

Image #6 - This shows another reduction of the block. I am taking away all of the area in the "sky" as I want it to remain blue and orange. What remains is the linoleum where the houses, hill and border of the print will be.

Image #7 - I applied a green color to the area of the hill. Some of the houses got covered as well but that is ok because the final color of the houses will be black (and the green will get covered up).

Image #8 - I reduce the block in the area of the hill so the green shows through, and apply black ink to all the linoleum that remains on the block.

The print must hang and dry for several days (I use oil based inks). Note - before each printing, the paper must soak in water for at least 5 minutes. The previous layer of ink should dry completely first, not because it will run, but because it will make for better adhesion and eliminate the possibility of smudges.

Below - The finished print. I printed 20 of these (Started with 21, I lost one...oh well! )


Julie Denise said...

yay, thanks for this!! I work primarily in linocut and I love printing by hand. I don't use a press at all, just a Japanese baren and my lucky wooden spoon :)

I like to eyeball the registration too, but a simple solution that works wonders is a cutting board with a grid, like you would use for cutting mats. Do you have a paper preference? I love rice paper, but I don't use oil based ink so the thinner paper is ok.

Looking forward to seeing your post on transfer methods!! Cheers :)

Julie Denise @ JGoldsmith Gallery

Diane Podolsky said...

Hi Julie - my preference is Rives Lightweight and Rives Heavyweight papers.

Kirsten Francis said...

Nicely done! I've spent a lot of time trying to explain the process to the bemused and befuddled (it is a bit of a mind bender, no?) so it's great to see an explanation with such great visuals.
I use Torinoko B grade paper. It's strong, supple and works great with water and oil based inks.
I also have a registration technique that is fairly lo-tech but works very well. It's a bit to explain but anyone interested can contact me.
Thanks for the article!

Kirsten Francis

Anonymous said...

A spot on description of lino reduction technique - not too many linoprinters describe this approach. I use it exclusively and encourage registration boards even for B&W prints - there's just no room for errors this way.

Aslo - as Kirsten says, try explaining this to many people - it's good just to watch them figure it out. :) Thank you for a great post.