Monday, February 16, 2009

Relief print from linoleum surface

Todays entry features a new study in development. It is the beginnings of a relief print that will incorporate several cut block surfaces to produce a multiple colour image on paper.

The process I am using differs significantly from making a intaglio print as the surface of the matrix is used as the transfer vehicle to deliver ink onto the paper. It also involves a bit of carving skill to remove areas of block surface material where I do not want ink to print on the paper.
The printing stage also does not require the tremendous pressure of my press rollers that is needed to make an intaglio print. I could in fact hand burnish the back of the paper with a baren if so desired to make the print, however I do like the impression left by passing through a press with just a little pressure.

In fig. 1 I darkened the surface of the golden colour linoleum first using a chisel tip black waterproof marker - Sharpie brand and when that dried I sketched areas to be cut in silver ink gel marker (which reads well on the black surface. (You could also coat the surface with black waterproof india ink). When the white guide marks are cut away the golden colour is revealed. This contrast on the block will give you some idea of how the image will print when the surface is inked and transferred to a paper surface. I am working on cutting away the block in sections so decided that the top part was a good place to begin and work my way downward as I progress.

fig. 1
I found that working hunched over a table was not helping my neck and back so I constructed a portable 45 degree table top angled slant surface. This is covered with shelf liner material (non-slip) that is held in place with thumb tacks at the top and sides. I also have a swing arm magnifying lamp attached to the table which allows me to viewed enlarged areas while I am cutting. This particular block is not large in size and the fine details I want to achieve can really only be created using the aid of the magnifying lens.

For cutting I will use a variety of tools including speedball nibs and handles (fig. 2), a higher end wooden handle set of cutting tools (fig. 3) and finally a few very small fine point wood engraving tools from E.C. Lyons (fig. 4) which can also cut into linoleum and give fine marks in the surface of the hard linseed based material.

If you heat up the linoleum (sun exposure, hair dryer or setting on a warming plate or in the overn for a few minutes at low temp.) it is much easier to cut. For fine surface details it doesn't require the depth as broader cut areas so generally I leave it unheated to do these specific markings.

fig. 2

fig. 3

fig. 4

The sharp tip of a eliptic tint wood engraving tool. Notice the size compared to my finger tip.

Here I am making cuts to the linoleum surface using the Speedball small v shape nib. This is followed by the removal of larger area of material using a bit larger U shape nib.

Here is a closeup of the detail I have cut from the block. Notice the scale of size. The pock marks were created using the end of the a eliptic tint engraving tool.

I set a piece of printmaster paper over the inked section of block and rubbed with a smooth plastic handle rubbing stick. This shows me how the cuts will print and where I can cut away more areas in the sky (which I do not want to print). Notice how the image prints in reverse. This is an important fact to keep in mind, especially if type is being used in the image.

Here is the stage where the block has more cut from it and is now ready to become my black "key block". I have printed another proof to show how it will print on paper. My plan now is to cut a few more individual blocks that will print transparent inks on top of the black to create tinted hues. The exception will the block I cut to create a blue background for the sky and water which will be printed first and then the black key block.


  1. Brian,

    I'm so glad to see you have a blog now. Excellent and informative posts so far. I look forward to more.

  2. Wow! love your blog! I've been out of printmaking for almost 15 years and am slowing making my way back! Thanks for the wonderful photos and explanation!