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On Printmaking

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

"Make an impression...be a printmaker"

Linda Whitney



My little 10"x20" (25x50 cm) home made intaglio press


Printmaking has a special attraction for me, perhaps because of the tactile involvement with the material, while carving a block or engraving a plate, and then, during the printing process itself, running the press or printing by hand with the baren.


Being able to pull multiple prints from one block or plate, has its own merits, giving more people a chance to own a piece of your artwork. The most accessible of all printmaking methods is probably the linoleum block printing, making it also the most popular since it doesn’t require a big outlay of money and the tools and materials can be found in most art supply stores.

Below is a list of some basic tools:

-Battleship linoleum, mounted or not

-Cutters

-Paper and Ink

-Rubber roller (brayer) and piece of ¼ inch (6mm) plate glass

-Baren or spoon (printing press not absolute necessity)

-Bench hook

Linoleum Block Printing

The process starts with a sketch or drawing of the subject matter that needs to be transferred onto the linoleum block. One way of doing it is making a fresh xerox copy of it, laying it face down onto the block and rubbing acetone over it with a soft cotton rag or a make-up remover pad. This way you will get a mirror image of your drawing/sketch transferred onto the block which after carving, when printed, will be a right representation of that.


Before you begin carving, remember, what you cut away will be white and what remains will print! A note on safety- linoleum cutters are sharp, and therefore can injure your fingers, especially when you’re totally absorbed in the creative process. To avoid such accidents, use a bench hook and always push the cutter away from your hand.


For printing, one can use oil base or water base inks. The later ones are easier to clean up at the end, I personally prefer the oil based as I think they give a richer black.


Linoleum block printing can be done in one color, usually black, or in multiple colors, using a separate block for each color, or use the reduction method where only one block is employed. Here the first areas to be carved are the ones that will remain white and each consecutive carving is printed with inks that go from light to dark, with the black or darkest going on last.

With each color one prints the entire edition before moving to the next one. This requires much thought and experimentation as some inks have a certain amount of transparency and layered with other colors may result in unwanted colors or, it can be used to advantage.


A very important aspect of multi-block and reduction printing is registration of the paper. One has to devise some way to make sure that the paper will register in the same place on the block every time it’s printed, otherwise the image will come out “blurry”.


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