Printing a linoblock…how to start…

Printing a linoblock is not always an easy task taking much practice and attention to detail – there are so many linocut prints out there that have been have not been printed well so it is important to know what a well-printed linocut print looks like. I will discuss this further in the post Printing Linocuts…some common problems…  This was highlighted again to me yesterday whilst in a building with numerous artworks hanging throughout the large complex (I am very impressed by this!) including linocut prints (even more impressed!!). The images were fine but some of the printing was…

So, as I spent the day in the studio printing several linoblocks, I decided to post about printing linocuts or a carved linoblock. This is my print drying cupboard with some printings on the shelves drying.

  This is the latest linoblock that I have carved – it is of a Tawny Frogmouth.

The lino is ‘mounted’ onto a hessian backing. This holds the lino all together but can be something to watch when printing – especially if you cut the block at all. Make sure that the linoblock is clear of all dirt and excess chips from carving.

The first task in printing a linocut is to make sure you have the paper cut to the correct and same size for the whole number of the edition being printed. Then set up a ‘production line’ from inking plate – being right-handed my production line starts on the far left with:

   1. A clear perspex or glass sheet to use for rolling out the ink in a thin layer the ink then

   2. A clean backing sheet to place linoblock on to pick up the roll over of ink so it doesn’t get on the table

   3. A clean piece of cardboard with a ruled outline for the current linoblock and one for the sized paper so that you can lay down the linoblock and paper in the same spot each time and

   4. Felt for press or burnishing tool (spoon or baren).

As I do not currently do multi-coloured prints my ‘registration is limited to placing the linoblock in the correct position for the paper so I do not currently use a complicated registration board that would be required for multi-coloured prints to ensure each colour prints in the correct position on every print within an edition. I may talk about more complicated registration at a later dated.

ROLLING OUT THE INK: You start by setting up a line of ink across the top of the glass or perspex – inking block – you use for the inking.

You then pick up a small line of ink on the roller by dipping it into the line of ink.

Then in a small area square of the size of the roller and roll the ink up to an even layer

The image on the left is of a roller about 5 inches in width so the approximate ‘square’ of ink would be 5.5 inches square.

It may sound odd but the sound of the ink rolling is important as it give you an idea of creating a thin even spread of ink within your square. It starts with a tacky sound and then as you get an even layer it changes to a smooth hiss – yes I know very technical!!

NOTE: The aim is to pick up a layer of ink around the roller and then transferring the ink onto the linoblock.

Therefore when transferring the ink from the glass roll out and onto the lino block you roll in one direction (I usually go forward) and then ink in the same direction onto the block – not backwards and forwards.

You can think of this as picking up the ink and transferring it rather than the rolling the ink on and rolling off in by moving the roller forwards and backwards.

It then becomes a process of running the roller across the inked up glass/perspex plate and rolling it in one direction across the linoblock, then back to ‘pick up’ more ink off the glass plate and ‘roll off’ onto the lino.

This continual process adds increasing amounts of thin layers of ink to the block.

The aim is to transfer enough of a thin even layer of ink from the inking block to the linoblock in order to get a nice even, smooth print – too much ink and there will be raised uneven areas of ink on the paper (be wary of the ‘edges’ of the carved areas) or too little and the ink will be splotchy and missing in places.

I must say it is exciting to see the first print of a carved image come up clear and dramatic.

TIPS: If you view the block on an angle and catch the ink in the light you can see the general lay of ink and get some idea of whether it is even and using thin gloves whilst inking the linoblock inking helps keep your hands clean so then you can remove the gloves and use clean hands to pick up the clean paper. Note the edges of this image shows the roll over off the edges of the block onto the covering bottom paper.

Once the linoblock is fully inked then you MUST transfer the linoblock to a clean surface before placing the paper on it

Make sure you take off you gloves and move your inked block with clean hands.

The image shows my linoblock on the marked up cardboard for registration for the block and paper. The ink on the board is completely dry otherwise this ink will simply transfer to the nice clean expensive print paper.

Be careful any stray ink on fingertips is removed otherwise in you get not so lovely inky fingerprints on nice clean paper.

Place the paper you are printing on carefully over the linoblock by starting on one edge lined up with the paper size on the underneath registration block and carefully lowering it down across the inked print. This may take some practice and I have occasionally ‘dropped’ the paper over the block and created a messy print that cannot be used!!

You then burnish – rub – with a spoon or baren over the back of the paper applying pressure to transfer the ink from the linoblock and onto the paper – or if you are fortunate enough to have a press you can then place felts on top and into a relief printing press.

The final print…

Copyright – Lynette Weir

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