Printing a linocut
I'd like to share my linocut printmaking process with you so that you can see the love and time dedicated to creating each unique print.
Firstly I should say that I'm relatively new to the process of linocut, and so if you're looking for professional advice I'd recommend taking a beginner's print course like I did to learn basic skills. I was taught by the fabulously talented Dena O'Brien of Kiwi Print Studio and I highly recommend this print studio if you're based in Cornwall.
drawing and carving
Once I've drawn my design onto the linocut (which needs to drawn in reverse so that it prints the correct way round!) I carve out the areas where I don't want ink to cover - the negative space. I really enjoy carving, it's really satisfying. Equally, it can be a nail-biting experience because if you carve out a piece of lino which you didn't mean to, you've ruined it!
In an ideal world I'd have a proper print studio fully equipped with desktop spaces, a sink and a press. Presently that's not an option for me but it doesn't stop me creating professional linocuts! Here's my DIY home kit ...
There are different options of relief inks available, but I'm currently using 'Caligo Safe Wash Inks'. They give a good colour and ink coverage without staining everything (hence the 'safe wash' bit!)
You really have to rub the paper you're printing on to with A LOT of pressure to transfer the ink successfully. Without a press to do this for bit for you, it can be a real arm and shoulder workout!
These are a must if you don't want to get ink all over each print you make. I use quite a few each time I do a run of prints and I'm aware they are not environmentally friendly. The ones I've used are latex free but I'm not sure that they are recyclable. Definitely need to investigate further!
Glass chopping board
Perfect for mixing your inks on.
Rollers vary greatly in price, but I splashed out on a japanese soft rubber roller because they apply a great ink coverage and you get a great quality print.
I use these to mix inks on the glass chopping board and to scoop up excess ink after I've finished printing. I use bits of card that I have leftover from various packaging rather than buy new whenever I can.
For mopping up excess ink and resting inky tools on in between printing.
Chip shop paper
Whenever I print, I cover the surface of whatever table or desktop I'm printing on all over with chip shop paper to protect it from ink. I also use several sheets to draw templates on so that my prints are always printed in the same postition on the paper. When one template gets too inky, I swap it for a fresh one.
I love this part! It's a bit of trial and error getting your colours just right and I make sure I always have white, black and a navy blue to hand, but yellow can be a good addition too.
rolling the ink
It takes a lot of practice to get the right amount of ink on your roller, and the right amount of ink on the glass. Too much ink and your print looks too blocky, with no texture. Too little and it looks like a pair of washed out denim jeans! I am still learning and practising, but I try to get a run of 12 great looking prints from each linocut design.
the big reveal
Before you pull the print away from the linocut plate you need to rub every inch of the paper with the back of a wooden spoon. We're not talking a gentle tickle here, we're talking rub with all your might until your shoulders ache and your arm falls off. Now do this for 12 prints! This is where a manual printing press would be a dream. You're still printing it by hand, but you roll it through the press to save time and your arms.