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How to make a woodcut, linocut, or wood engraving

Relief printing techniques, part 2

Go to part 1 for Introduction, Definition, Cutting, and Printing

Prints in color

If you want to have a print in color, you can use watercolor or pencil color or whatever you think of, and work with them on your prints once they are dried. However, if you want to print with different colors of ink, you will have to make a different block for each colors, use a reduction technique, or use the white-line technique first experimented by Provincetown printmakers (from the town of Provincetown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA) in the early 1900. Multiple blocks: 1. First, do the main block, the one with the shapes, the one that generally will be printed in black, and print it on a tracing paper. Then put the tracing paper on a block of the same size, and press the inked picture on its surface: you will have a second block with the same picture as the one on your first block. Once the ink has dried, you can define which part of this picture will get the second color, and cut everything else. For a third color, do the same on a third block, and so on. 2. When you want to print these blocks, you will have first to define exactly where they will be put under the press, and find a means to fix your sheet of paper so you can lift it without moving it. On a flatbed cylinder press, it can easily be done as there are some clips to do that, but with another press or by hand, I would not recommend trying it as it is too difficult to fix the blocks and the paper without them moving at one point or another during the printing process. 3. Once you know where blocks and paper will go, you start to print one color, lift the paper, replace your first block with the second one inked with another color, press it, lift the paper, and so on until you are done with the different colors. Then you put another sheet of paper and do your second print the same way. 4. As it takes time to go from one color to the others, and one sheet of paper to the next one, it is better to use oil based inks that will not dried on your blocks between two uses, and it is also recommended that you start with the lighter colors.         A print made with two blocks, one for the black, one for the blue   Same print modified and hand colored with watercolor Reduction technique: 1. I have never used this technique, also called "suicidal technique" as no mistake is allowed when you use it, so my explanations will be theoretical, but I have seen some results and the final print is often superb as the colors are very rich and nuanced. 2. NB: some printmakers that read my comments told me it is not that difficult, you just have to think backward and start from light tones to darker ones. Richard Kushinsky als told me it is a good idea to use sharpies to redo the lines on the block once you are satisfied with the drawing, otherwise the lines will disappear once you wash the plate (same recommendation for the next technique) 3. The idea is to use only one block, and to cut it as the print progress, or reduce it. 4. Each step of the cutting is printed, and the color goes on top of the previous one(s), so you must print the full edition from the start -plus a few copies to allow for printing mistakes- and be aware that you can never go back. It means that you must know in advance where the colors will be on the print, and how they will mix together in order to play with the transparencies and get rich tones at the end. It also means that you should better start with the lighter tones. 5. The first cut defines the whites and leave untouched the areas that will get the background or first color. The next cut adds details to the big areas by preserving lines that will be inked with a darker tone, and so on. If the first cut defines a big yellow area by leaving it untouched and inking the relief, the next cut can remove material in this area, leaving lines that will be inked with a darker tone. 6. It is a slow technique as you have to wait between each cut for the previous color to dry, and you have to clean and dry your block before cutting it again. 7. You must also be sure that paper and block will be positionned in the same fashion at each step, so if you cannot register your paper in one way or another, I do not know how you could use this technique. 8. NB: Again here, Richard Kushinsky -search him on the web to get more info- told me you can buy some register on the internet for a very reasonnable price, so it should solves this difficulty. He also recommended a new material made of rubber called "safety cut" or "easy cut", softer than linoleum or wood and easier to work according to him, but I had tried it already and found it too soft for my liking, so you will have to see for yourselves. White line technique 1. It is also a technique that uses one block only, and you get a very unusual result with it as it combines printing and watercolor. Its name comes from the white lines that surround all the different colored areas, representing cuts defining these areas in the block, and allowing for inking them without spilling. 2. Each relief, once surrounded by cuts, is inked with a brush and watercolor. As watercolor dries quickly, you cannot color the whole block at once and/or you must color only small areas each time. 3. It is also a very slow technique as you must wait for each area to dry before inking the next one, then, once you first copy is made, clean the whole block and start again the same process for the next copy. It is the reason why most Provincetown printmakers were working on more than one image at the same time. 4. The paper is afixed on one side of the block so you are sure it will be positionned correctly each time, and it opens as a book to allow for drying.

Numbering

Because you have to do a lot of thing by hand to get your prints, each print is different. Furthermore, each new print you make is generally darker or has more lines than the one you printed before because the block got more ink. To acknowledge this specificity, each print is numbered and considered as an original. The first number is the place of the print, the second is the total of prints made: 3/6 means print #3 on a total of 6. You are supposed to destroy your block once all the prints are made to insure any buyer that there will not be additional prints later. You are also supposed to print a copy of this destroyed block to show that it has indeed be destroyed. Anyhow, I do not know of any printer doing it, as it also means destroying your work. Most of them, I guess, keep their block and if the first edition is sold out, or if they see a new way to use this block, alter the first image and do a second edition, wich is also an original because something is different from the first one.                      Linocut, 1st edition        Same linocut, 2nd edition Beside these numbered prints, 10% of the total edition can be printed without number and will be called EA or AP (Exemplaire d'Artiste, or Artist Proof) The first prints you made to see how was your cutting can be kept and called E.E. (Exemplaire d'Essais, or First Try ) but I generally do not keep them because there are not what I wanted to do and the paper I printed on is not a good one. When I do an edition without numbering the prints, all prints are labelled OE (Open Edition) All prints must be signed and dated, and they are also generally titled. There are different way of putting all those information below the print, but none is said to be better than the other. It is mainly a question of how you want the result to look like. In any case, it will always be written with a pencil. Linocut, number 11/12 Linocut, EA

Sharpening your tools

About 20 years after this article was first published, someone asked me what kind of sharpeners I would recommend, so  so if I had to buy one again, it would surely be the Flexcut SlipStrop as it seems quite good,at least according to the customers reviews. I forgot this part because I do not like to sharpen my gouges. I have a sharpening stone and some oil that I bought many years ago, and I do use them when I’m tired to push too hard on my tools, but I still need the patience and practice required, I guess! Ressources & Questions Here is a recap of the ressources I cited in this article, all found on Amazon.  You’ll also find Printmaking tools, press and book on Ebay, but you’ll have to browse to find something you like as the selection changes often. The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook: techniques and tools for relief printmaking Relief printmaking: a manual of techniques  Relief Printmaking, The Art of etching The Printmaking Bible: the complete guide to material and techniques Speedball Deluxe Block printing kit Sax True flow water soluble ink  Stonehenge printmaking paper Speedball Printmaster Press Flexcut SlipStrop Need to know more? Ask me a question on my blog.

      Images, Voyages, Impressions 1

     Prints, Photos, Fotoprints, Stories & more, to Explore, Smile, Wonder
Now that you are ready top leave this page, why not going to the Home page to see what else there’s on the site, or exit through a banner like the one above if it picks your interest? That will help this site grow and reward my work. Thanks in advance!

How to make a woodcut, linocut, or wood engraving

Relief printing techniques, part 2

All contents © LD       Next shows | Blog Others sites  |  Links  | Contact & Social
Go to part 1 for Introduction, Definition, Cutting, & Printing Prints in color If you want to have a print in color, you can use watercolor or pencil color or whatever you think of, and work with them on your prints once they are dried. However, if you want to print with different colors of ink, you will have to make a different block for each colors, use a reduction technique, or use the white-line technique first experimented by Provincetown printmakers (from the town of Provincetown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA) in the early 1900. Multiple blocks: - First, do the main block, the one with the shapes, the one that generally will be printed in black, and print it on a tracing paper. Then put the tracing paper on a block of the same size, and press the inked picture on its surface: you will have a second block with the same picture as the one on your first block. Once the ink has dried, you can define which part of this picture will get the second color, and cut everything else. For a third color, do the same on a third block, and so on. - When you want to print these blocks, you will have first to define exactly where they will be put under the press, and find a means to fix your sheet of paper so you can lift it without moving it. On a flatbed cylinder press, it can easily be done as there are some clips to do that, but with another press or by hand, I would not recommend trying it as it is too difficult to fix the blocks and the paper without them moving at one point or another during the printing process. - Once you know where blocks and paper will go, you start to print one color, lift the paper, replace your first block with the second one inked with another color, press it, lift the paper, and so on until you are done with the different colors. Then you put another sheet of paper and do your second print the same way. - As it takes time to go from one color to the others, and one sheet of paper to the next one, it is better to use oil based inks that will not dried on your blocks between two uses, and it is also recommended that you start with the lighter colors. A print made with two Same print modified and hand colored with watercolor blocks, one for the black, one for the blue   Reduction technique: - I have never used this technique, also called "suicidal technique" as no mistake is allowed when you use it, so my explanations will be theoretical, but I have seen some results and the final print is often superb as the colors are very rich and nuanced. - NB: some printmakers that read my comments told me it is not that difficult, you just have to think backward and start from light tones to darker ones. Richard Kushinsky also told me it is a good idea to use sharpies to redo the lines on the block once you are satisfied with the drawing, otherwise the lines will disappear once you wash the plate (same recommendation for the next technique) - The idea is to use only one block, and to cut it as the print progress, or reduce it. = Each step of the cutting is printed, and the color goes on top of the previous one(s), so you must print the full edition from the start -plus a few copies to allow for printing mistakes- and be aware that you can never go back. It means that you must know in advance where the colors will be on the print, and how they will mix together in order to play with the transparencies and get rich tones at the end. It also means that you should better start with the lighter tones. - The first cut defines the whites and leave untouched the areas that will get the background or first color. The next cut adds details to the big areas by preserving lines that will be inked with a darker tone, and so on. If the first cut defines a big yellow area by leaving it untouched and inking the relief, the next cut can remove material in this area, leaving lines that will be inked with a darker tone. - It is a slow technique as you have to wait between each cut for the previous color to dry, and you have to clean and dry your block before cutting it again. - You must also be sure that paper and block will be positionned in the same fashion at each step, so if you cannot register your paper in one way or another, I do not know how you could use this technique. - NB: Again here, Richard Kushinsky -search him on the web to get more info- told me you can buy some register on the internet for a very reasonnable price, so it should solves this difficulty. He also recommended a new material made of rubber called "safety cut" or "easy cut", softer than linoleum or wood and easier to work according to him, but I had tried it already and found it too soft for my liking, so see for yourselves! White line technique - It is also a technique that uses one block only, and you get a very unusual result with it as it combines printing and watercolor. Its name comes from the white lines that surround all the different colored areas, representing cuts defining these areas in the block, and allowing for inking them without spilling. - Each relief, once surrounded by cuts, is inked with a brush and watercolor. As watercolor dries quickly, you cannot color the whole block at once and you must color only small areas each time. - It is also a very slow technique as you must wait for each area to dry before inking the next one, then, once your 1st copy is made, clean and start again the same process for the next copy. It is the reason why most Provincetown printmakers were working on more than one image at the same time. - The paper is afixed on one side of the block so you are sure it will be positionned correctly each time, and it opens as a book to allow for drying. Numbering Because you have to do a lot of thing by hand to get your prints, each print is different. Furthermore, each new print you make is generally darker or has more lines than the one you printed before because the block got more ink. To acknowledge this specificity, each print is numbered and considered as an original. The first number is the place of the print, the second is the total of prints made: 3/6 means print #3 on a total of 6. You are supposed to destroy your block once all the prints are made to insure any buyer that there will not be additional prints later. You are also supposed to print a copy of this destroyed block to show that it has indeed be destroyed. Anyhow, I do not know of any printer doing it, as it also means destroying your work. Most of them, I guess, keep their block and if the first edition is sold out, or if they see a new way to use this block, alter the first image and do a second edition, wich is also an original because something is different from the first one. Linocut, 1st edition     Same linocut, 2nd edition Beside these numbered prints, 10% of the total edition can be printed without number and will be called EA or AP (Exemplaire d'Artiste, or Artist Proof) The first prints you made to see how was your cutting can be kept and called E.E. (Exemplaire d'Essais, or First Try ) but I generally do not keep them because there are not what I wanted to do and the paper I printed on is not a good one. When I do an edition without numbering the prints, all prints are labbeled OE (Open Edition) All prints must be signed and dated, and they are also generally titled. There are different way of putting all those information below the print, but none is said to be better than the other. It is mainly a question of how you want the result to look like. In any case, it will always be written with a pencil.         Linocut, number 11/12  

Sharpening your tools

About 20 years after this article was first published, someone asked me what kind of sharpeners I would recommend, so if I had to buy one again, it would surely be the Flexcut SlipStrop as it seems quite good, at least according to the customers reviews. I forgot this part because I do not like to sharpen my gouges. I have a sharpening stone and some oil that I bought many years ago, and I do use them when I’m tired to push too hard on my tools, but I still need the patience and practice required, I guess!  Ressources & Questions Here is a recap of the ressources I cited in this article, all found on Amazon. You’ll also find Printmaking tools, press and book on Ebay, but you’ll have to browse to find something you like as the selection changes often. The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook: techniques and tools for relief printmaking Relief printmaking: a manual of techniques  Relief Printmaking, The Art of etching The Printmaking Bible: the complete guide to material and techniques Speedball Deluxe Block printing kit Sax True flow water soluble ink  Stonehenge printmaking paper Speedball Printmaster Press Flexcut SlipStrop Need to know more? Ask me a question on my blog.
       Images, Voyages, Impressions 1       Prints, Photos, Fotoprints, Stories, to Explore, Smile, Wonder
Now that you are ready to leave this page, why not going to the Home page to see what else there’s on the site, or exit through a banner like the one above or below if one picks your interest? That will help this site grow and reward my work. Thanks in advance!