Linocut printing is a form of relief printing. The technique involves cutting into hessian backed linoleum. This is a relatively soft and easy to cut material especially when warmed. It is not really suitable for fine line cutting but is useful for printing more than one colour at a time.
It is important to remember to draw your image onto the lino in reverse, especially if you are printing numbers or a name. When you print the piece that is produced is a ‘mirror image’ of that on the lino block.
When building a multi-coloured lino print you work from light to dark colours. Firstly, you cut away the area you want to keep white. I usually use a narrow ‘v’ cutting tool and a small gouge or ‘u’ shaped tool for initial cutting. You then ink the block with your lightest colour and print this first. You print as many copies as you wish to have in a ‘print run’: I usually work between seven and twenty two prints in an edition. After you print a colour and have cleaned the block of ink, you then cut into the lino where you want to keep that colour. Once the copies have dried, you ink and print again. You continue with this sequence of ‘cutting and printing’ throughout your chosen colour scheme, which may, of course, involve building up several thin layers of colour depending upon the complexity of your design. As I cut away the lino block especially the larger areas I tend to use a larger gouge or ‘u’ cutter, especially when cutting away the background.
Generally I work using the ‘reduction method’ which involves using only one piece of lino. As you cut and print there is no going back to print more copies; you have to be careful to avoid errors. It is hardly surprising that this technique is also known as ‘the suicide method’! By the end of the process there is often has very little remaining of the original piece of lino – hence it being called the ‘reduction method’.
During the initial stages of printing, the lighter colours can show little resemblance to the finished image. But don’t get discouraged as the overall print will develop as you build up through to the dark colours. Occasionally I will print two colours at a time if the design and block allow – this helps as it cuts down on drying time and so on the overall time to produce the print.
Janice Earley | Artist | Printmaker | Illustrator