Here a few quick tips on getting your linocut block prepared ready for printing.
Linocut blocks are coated in a waterproof coating – if you place a drop of water on the surface it will bead and not soak in.
I remove this coating with a superfine grade ‘wet’ sandpaper – using a small amount of water I gently rub the surface with the sandpaper.
You will see the coating coming off easily – I then towel dry the block. If you then place a drop of water on the surface it will soak in. Make sure you allow the linoblock is completely dry before you print.
2. I trim the edges of the block to make a clean line for the print using a steel ruler and a sharp bladed knife. Traditional linocut blocks have a hessian backing.
3. When you trim a linocut block this hessian backing needs to be further trimmed back to ensure none of the hessian stringing is left – this string can easily pick up ink when you are printing and create unsightly marks onto the surface of the print.
4. I use scissors to trim – first from the front and then I turn the block over and check of there are any pieces of string that may slowly come undone whilst printing and I trim these back as well.
I regularly check the block whilst printing to ensure no stray fine hairs are still there and picking up ink. It is easy to miss one and it is not until it marks the print that you realise it is there.
Within the outside white section of the image on the right you can see a fine white line – this is one of the small and often extremely fine hairs that can easily ruin a great print – just ask me I know!!
The image on the right shows the fine marks that can occur from these hairs picking up the ink. I have discarded many prints (which is quite costly) because of this. The image on the left shows a large section of the hessian backing that would definitely pick up ink and transfer to a print.
I try to keep a particular standard to the prints I include within an edition and work at improving my skills on an ongoing basis. I am finding that as my actual printing technique and knowledge of printmaking improves so the standards I want within each print of an edition, also increases.
I am always seeking to learn new and improved techniques and tips through a variety of sources. I am very aware that over time my printmaking skills have improved and as a result so have the prints!
I hope this information helps other linocut printmakers in identifying this and other common printing mistakes.
One of the other ingredients I use when printing it music – I always print with music playing (usually loudly) I find it helps with creating a space, mindset and rhythm for printing which is essentially a very carefully constructed hand-produced production line activity.