Making a Reduction Linocut without a Press
As a perpetually Distracted Person, making a reduction linocut was always a wish, but it got suppressed by uncertainty.
I made a reduction woodcut in a printmaking class I took a few decades ago. It came out terrible, with too many layers of thickly rolled ink. The surface of my print felt like a vinyl quilt. But, awful results are the expected outcome when you try anything just once, right?
Linocut Video Tutorials
When I started filming printmaking tutorials for my youtube channel in 2014, a reduction linocut was high on my list. My goal was to use a very simple design, on a small block.
Making a multicolor print by carving, and then printing consecutive colors, from the same block, on top of each previous print is a brain teaser! After a lot of reading, planning and note-taking – I was ready to proceed.
Building a Registration Jig
After researching all the ways to register printmaking plates or blocks, aligned to paper, for reduction or multicolor prints, I settled on a cardboard jig for its simplicity.
If you’d like to make this little cardboard assistant, here is a segment from one of my other reduction linocut videos, to see how to make a cardboard registration jig.
What is a Reduction Block Print?
A reduction block print is a multi-color relief print. It’s usually created with one block, carved and printed repeatedly for each color on the print.
For a three color print, in an edition of 10, the first carving and printing is usually done with the lightest color.
The block was inked in the lightest hue of the three ink colors. To leave room for the inevitable registration or transfer mistakes in an edition of 10, that first color was (in this case) printed in the registration jig on 18 sheets of same-size printmaking paper.
The block is then carved a little more, based on the design and color overlap. (If you use transparent inks, layers of consecutive colors will create new colors.) The second color ink is rolled into the block, and then aligned, and printed on top of each of the 18 previous color prints.
Reduction Linocut Block Process Continued
The same block is carved more. The third and last color – usually the darkest color – is rolled onto the remaining parts of the block. Once again, the inked block is aligned in the jig.
One by one, the block is inked and pressed against the 18 color prints to finish the design.
If you’re a text-based learner, this article by the Wichita Art Museum on the reduction woodcuts by printmaker Leon Loughridge is great. His finished print is lovely, and it was created by using three different reduction blocks! His website also has a simple, graphic representation of the woodcut process here.
Printing the Last Color on a Reduction Linocut Print
As a beginner to this process, it’s easiest to print your lightest colors to darkest, in sequence. It also helps to consider what you’re preserving as you carve your next parts from the block.
Think of the word reduction: you’re carving to reduce the printable area. In reverse, you’re removing material so it won’t print on top of the last color you just printed.
Relief Printing a Reduction Linocut
The last color in this reduction linocut was a cool, transparent blue-black. When you watch the demo video below, you’ll see that each color was transferred using a spoon (no press required).
This makes linoleum block printing something you can do at your kitchen table. Or, weather permitting, take the project outdoors and work on a picnic table, a balcony, or a patio chair with a lap desk.
Make a Linocut Print
I hope you make a linocut after watching this tutorial video (above). Here is another tutorial on a two-color linocut. Even if you opt to make a single color print (see this post about linocut ideas for beginners) I hope you have fun.
With a few basic supplies, a simple design transferred to the block, and a flat surface to work on, you’re all set. Listen to music, chat with a friend, zoom with another artist while you work, or listen to an audiobook (I’m listening to this book – and loving it!)
If you have any questions, leave them for me in the comments, and I’ll respond soon. In the meantime, happy making, and good wishes for busy hands!
See you in the next post –
P.S. Check out my friend and fellow printmaker – Rich Fowler’s post on reduction linocuts here.
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