Friday, July 24, 2015

Creating a Linoleum Block Print

Maneki Neko, completed July 23, 2015

Here is a photographic illustration of how I make lino block prints... 

original pencil sketch

Every lino starts with a sketch. Often I will flip the image (and resize if necessary) using the computer. Sometimes I can trace onto the block directly from the original.

Here I am using graphite paper to transfer the drawing (which is under the white paper in this photo). Note that the image has been flipped.

Since I work primarily on a small scale (usually smaller than 2" x 3" - 5 x 7.5 cm), I typically use just three blade types for cutting the design into the linoleum: the #1 V blade for details, the #2 V blade for further outlining, and the #5 U blade for removing the excess linoleum.

Here I have cut the detail lines and the outline once with the #1 blade.

This is the second outline with the #1. 

I widen the outline around the image in stages for two reasons. First, one is less likely to accidentally cut into the image this way, gradually increasing the blade size; and second, this creates a graduated slope which lends strength and durability to the uncut portions (which make up the inked portions of the printed image). 

This process is better illustrated in the series of photos below.

Third outline, this time using the #2 blade.

Fourth outline, using the #2 blade again.

Removing the excess with the big #5 blade.

After going around the image twice with the tiny #1 and twice with the bigger #2, I am comfortable using the #5 U blade to remove the excess linoleum. I begin at the edge closest to the design and cut away, towards the edges of the block.

All excess linoleum has been removed. 

Here you can see the graduated slope created by cutting multiple outlines. It rather looks like the terraced slope of a mesa. This sloped edge, rather than a steep 'cliff' edge creates strength in the printing surface, making the edge less likely to crumble after age and wear from multiple printings.

...and after my first test print I realize I forgot to cut one of the lines.

Sometimes you have to print the block to see mistakes, luckily these are easily fixed.

Now I am ready for a print run!

A thin layer of ink is rolled out onto a sheet of acetate which gets transferred to the block using a brayer (roller). I keep the acetate "ink plate" under a grate covered with a damp towel to keep the ink from drying out too quickly. The consistency of the ink makes all the difference when printing. If there is too much ink, your lines will not be sharp, and may even fill in. If there's not enough ink, your print will be patchy looking. Some ink anomalies are normal and add to the individuality of each print.

After the block is inked, I place it ink side down on the paper and apply a little pressure so it sticks.

Then I flip the whole thing over.

The rounded plastic magnet (which is face down in the photo) serves as my baren (a tool used to rub the ink into the paper). I have found that this magnet, because of its smooth convex plastic side, makes the best baren, perhaps due to the small scale of my prints.

The inked part of the block gets thoroughly rubbed into the paper with the baren.

The paper is then slowly peeled from the block.


Here is the finished lino, stamped with my signature seal. The quarter is there for scale.

It is now time for pizza!

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