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Hannah Farthing’s Linocut Printing Top Tips

An Introduction to Linocut Printing.

Mill Tye Gallery's one day Print Workshop with Hannah Farthing. Sunday 14th April

Designed specifically for beginners this course gave participants the fundamental skills for linocut designing and printing as well as experimental printing techniques to try.

Hannah’s Top Tips

1) Get Inspired

Choose a theme or subject that interests you, immerse yourself in it and collect imagery that inspires you to create your design from. Create your own drawings from life and photographs, visit exhibitions at museums and galleries, do visual research online using websites such as Pinterest and collect your inspiration in one place. Use a sketchbook to record your development of ideas, from collages of imagery through to composition sketches.

2) Draw your Design

Create a line drawing of the image that you would like to print. Contrast is very important for linocuts. Consider how you are going to translate your line drawing in to a high contrast carving and how it will be positioned on the block and page. You may find it helpful to shade in the block areas and lines that you wish to remove when carving.

3) Transfer your Design to the Block

Using a thick white Posca pen, colour in the whole surface of your block of lino (we used Japanese vinyl) to create a light background. Once this is dry, use a 2B pencil and tracing paper to trace over your final design line drawing. Next, place the tracing paper, pencil drawing side down to the block. Secure with masking tape and trace over the design to transfer the graphite on to the block.

4) Carve the Block

Using a variety of lino carving tools, carve away the areas of your design that you wish to remove. What you leave untouched on the block (the raised surface) will become your design. Take care to carve at a 45 degree angle, and always keep your hands behind the blade. Avoid ‘digging’! Use smaller tools for finer details and accuracy, and wide tools to remove larger areas.

5) Check your Progress

Take a pencil rubbing of your carved block using a graphite stick and a thin sheet of paper. Use this as a guide to check your carving progress and see if you want to make any adjustments. You can do this at various stages throughout carving your block until you are happy with your design.

6) Get Inky!

Apply your chosen colour ink in a line (as wide as your roller) onto acetate. Use a brayer (roller) to roll out the ink in a thin layer, until the surface resembles the texture of mole skin. Then apply a moderate layer of ink to your carved block, making sure to ink the whole design evenly.

7) Registration and Burnishing

On a piece of grey board, draw a guide outline the same size as the paper you will be printing on. Place your linocut inside the guide as if you are positioning it on the page. Remember that it will print in the mirror image of where you have placed it. Once you are happy with your placement, line up your printed sheet over the guide, press firmly with your hand over where the linocut is to ‘stick’ the inked block to the page and then start ‘burnishing’ (printing) the block with a wooden spoon or burnishing tool. Take care not to move the paper or block, as this will result in a blurred print. Apply a even pressure over the whole design for an even print.

8) “Prints are a bit like pancakes”

Peel up the paper and take in the first look at your printed design. Prints are a bit like pancakes, in that sometimes the first print does not come out perfectly. If so, you may wish to make adjustments to get a better print. This may include carving a little more, adding more/less ink next time, changing the colour of ink, experimenting with placement, more pressure when printing etc.

9) Experiment

Repeat the process and experiment as you go along. You could try inking with multiple colours on the same block at the same time, for example creating a blend of colour from light to dark. It could be more experimental and expressive or you could select only a small part of the design to ink. You may also like to try printing overlaying colours and textures to enhance the depth of your design. For crisp results, this works best when you let each layer dry before printing the next. Water based inks dry quickly (usually within a few hours) whereas oil based inks may take a few days to fully dry.

10) Clean Up

Clean your block, surface and rollers depending on the type of ink you are using. For oil based inks use white spirit on a rag (wear gloves), and for water based inks simply use water or a dilute soap solution with a cloth.

11) Materials used and where to source them

Japanese Vinyl (lino blocks), oil based relief printing inks, rollers and linocut tools from Intaglio Printmaker

Paper - Colorplan (available in a range of colours) from G F Smith

Posca pen

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