Printmaking, Uncategorized

More Linocut Printmaking

The last time I posted a printmaking entry I set out to see if I could achieve clean, even prints from a linocut block on my nipping press. It wasn’t a scientific test, but I was generally methodical and got a couple of quality prints from what I hoped was based upon experience and on a growing understanding of the pressure required for consistent prints. It was time to see if I could do it again. This time with two new blocks, both of hands again.

I filmed all of these processes in small one and a half minute bursts with the intention of uploading them instead of stills, but I am too cheap financially cautious to pay for the video upgrade. So I have pulled some frames out that record each stage, from inking to end. (The quality of the images is not as good as some of the previous posts.)

First, the ink is rolled out on a flat smooth surface to an even thickness. I am using a water based relief ink which means cleaning up is easy and there are no fumes to worry about. This ‘rolling out’ usually takes just a couple of minutes.

The ink is then transferred to the block. I will keep re-rolling on the ink plate to refresh the roller until the block looks evenly coated. It is best to apply the ink thinly over several minutes; too much ink on the roller will fill up the shallow cuts in the block and spread beyond the raised edges.

When I think the block is fully inked it is then carefully moved over to the press. Usually, I have found I have underinked the first time around, but I would rather be under- than over-inked at this stage.

The block is placed face up centrally on a pre-marked piece of stiff board. This is not a great image, but it does show the proximity to the press at this stage; I have a ‘dirty’ inking area which is out of shot directly behind me in the image above, and a clean area around the press. It is best to be careful at this stage – I don’t want to get an inky thumb print on a fresh piece of stock. I have a pack of wet wipes on the side next to the press to keep wiping any ink off my fingers.

The stock is then carefully laid in position over the block and covered with a piece of felt I am using as a press blanket to spread the pressure evenly.

The whole pile is then (very) carefully transferred into the press and positioned centrally by eye.

A few turns until the platen reaches the base and then a firm pull. I tend to make a sort of “Gnnnh!” sound as I do this. If I don’t make this involuntary noise I find that I have not used enough pressure. Other noises, like “Uurgh!” and ” UUerrr!” tend to mean that I have exerted too much pressure, and the prints are to ‘forced’. If I make an “Arrgh!” noise it usually means I have had a hernia or left my finger in the press.

Again, carefully remove the pile and place back at the side of the press in the clean area.

Remove the felt and carefully (I’m going to stop typing in the word ‘carefully’ now – everything I do is careful!) lift up the stock from one side.

It’s a good ‘un! In this series, I printed three off before this one and pulled another two good prints after. The last one a smudged as I was removing it from the press. It was ok as a print too, but I wasn’t too disappointed. I then inked up my second block and began the process again. This time I achieve a good print on the second pull, followed by two more good ones and a patchy one.

This is the full amount of prints pulled last saturday afternoon. Three good prints from each block, thats a neat 50:50 out of 12 prints in total. I think that’s pretty good for a beginner.

Here are two of the good prints. Click for an enlargement – the originals are about half the size.

All three images have been added to the projects page.


10 thoughts on “More Linocut Printmaking

  1. Brilliant – a helpful, informative post. Thank you. I found your audible pressure gauge system particularly useful.

    Impressive results!

    1. Thanks Stu. I know it sounds funny with the sound effects, but that’s how I do it! It is no more technical or scientific than that!

  2. A great coffee break read – thanks!

    Could I suggest the video hosting website – I use it for uploading client motion graphics for over the phone meetings, but is particularly useful for this kind of thing. Also, its got quite a creative community as it restricts anything but home-made videos (no porn or dogs in yoda outfits!)

    1. Thanks, I’ll check that out Chris, but all my attempts to embed video so far have failed with the exception of a youtube clip ages ago.

  3. I particularly like the photograph of the hands all drying together. How much difference is there between the prints? They look incredibly consistent in the image – looks like your getting great results more regularly

    1. Cheers Chris. The prints are pretty consistent, but the early ones were under-inked, not by much, but it didn’t take long to ‘get my eye in’ – especially with the second one. I considered posting all of them in sequence, but decided against it to avoid too much repetition in the images.

      I am pleased with how quickly I can get a good print now, and I am waiting for a set of woodblock type to arrive that I bought off eBay recently! Expect to see some of that here soon…

  4. … hi there – how thick / thin is the felt sheet in your stack, please? I too am using a nipping press for linocuts, but I’m getting un-even pressure, with a slightly under-pressed central area due to deformity in the cast iron (top moving plate or bed-plate – can’t tell which). I’m going to get some MDF and place that on the bottom bed-plate just to try and mitigate any deformity in that, but I guess that the felt is used on the top side to create an ‘even’ pressure somehow? … tnx – fraser

    1. Hi Fraser,

      I use different amounts depending upon the block – a few test prints usually tells me whether I need more or less ‘give’ in the blanket. Looking at some of your other prints on flickr it looks like you are not getting even pressure – it isn’t consistently light in the middle, so I would suggest a little more felt is required. If your platens are deformed as you think they are, you should be getting a lighter patch in the same area on every print – try printing a solid block of lino to about three quarters of the bed size over and over to gauge this. This is not as wasteful as it first appears as you use these as block base colours to overprint on. I also tend to mount my lino onto three-quarter inch block board (not MDF – too soft) as this ensures that my block is good and flat in order for the felt blankets to do their job evenly…

      All that, and lots of repetition. Let me know how you get on – I’ll email this response to you as well so you can contact me direct. Hope this helps,


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