A linocut
An etching with aquatint
A linocut (with watercolor)
A woodcut (with watercolor)
Cutting a woodblock with a gouge
“a” letter engraved in mirror than printed on paper
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Relief printing techniques

Introduction

Once you’ll be done reading this rather long article, you’ll have a good idea of all the work involved in the creation of woodcuts, linocuts, and other prints made with relief printing techniques. If you are a printmaker doing woodcuts and linocuts, you can add two of your images and a link to your site at Woodcuts and Linocuts of the World If you want to know even more, you can consult The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook: techniques and tools for relief printmaking, the best book I found about the topic, and what it says about woodcut can be transfered to linocuts. There is also Relief Printmaking, a manual of techniques or, if you prefer a DVD, Relief Printmaking, a good choice too. Otherwise, this article is organized as follow: Definition Cutting Printing Prints in color (page 2) Numbering (page 2) Sharpening your tools, Resources & Questions (page 2)

Definition

The technique used to make the prints showcased on this site is called relief printing technique, as you have to cut the wood or linoleum around the drawing in order for the image to appear in relief. This relief will then be inked, and used to make the basis of the final image, like in letter printing or stamping. In other words, you save your drawing, and get rid of the extra material around it. It is also called "taille-d'épargne" from the French "'épargner" (saving) and "taille" (cut).  FYI: The opposite technique is called intaglio or recess process and uses metal blocks engraved by acids (etchings, mezzotints, aquatint) or cold chisels (dry point, engraving); it allows for finer lines and shades of grey, as seen below. If you want to know more about these techniques, you can consult The Art of etching or The Printmaking Bible: the complete guide to material and techniques.

Cutting

As you have to remove a lot of material from your block, relief printing techniques can only be used with "soft" materials like wood or linoleum, sometimes gerflex or PVC, rarely stone. NB: If you want to try out these techniques without spending a lot of money, try the Speedball Deluxe Block printing kit. I would not recommend it if you are a serious printer (get better tools and ink -see below) but to use in a classroom or for the occasionnal printmaker, that’s perfectly fine. I use it for try-out as the ink is easier to spread and dries quickly. Woodcut, Linocut and Wood engraving are the 3 main kinds of prints made with relief printing techniques. In each one, you draw your subject on the surface of a block and cut away every bit of material that is not the picture, using special instrument called gouges or knifes.                                                Some gouges are in V to cut fine lines, others in U to cut larger chunk of wood. Some are like a knife, but you can also use a Stanley knife, to cut precise angles or to define the contour of your image All gouges have to be sharpened regularly with a sharpening stone and oil A woodcut lets see the natural grain of the wood once printed, and it is something you can play with when deciding how to draw your picture. A linocut has less texture because of the homogenous nature of the linoleum, but it gives more contrast between the blacks and the whites. A wood engraving uses the end grain of a block of wood -it gives you a very hard surface- so the cutting is more difficult, but you can have finer lines than in the two other relief printing techniques, and you will be able to do more copies of your image before the block is destroyed by the pressure.      The surface of the blocks must be smooth if you want to be able to ink and print it entirely, so if you are using a piece of wood, you will have to sand it first using different grades of sandpaper. You can use any kind of wood, and cut with whatever you think of, even if some woods or instruments are more common. Keep in mind that the softest the material, the easiest the cutting but, also, the roughest the result. If you are planning a very detailed picture with many fine lines, use a wood from a fruit tree or the end grain of a block, and allow plenty of time you will need it to do the cutting. If you want to reproduce what can be seen in reality, you will have to cut using a mirror, or to use tracing paper to first draw your picture on the block.

Printing

Once you are done with your cutting, or think you are, it is time to print.You will need a roller, some ink, a plate to spread the ink on it, a press, a wooden spoon or a baren, and some paper.  Put some ink on the plate, spread it using a roller until it is put evenly on the surface -and on your roller-, then roll your roller many times in every direction on your block. Put a sheet of paper on your block, press it, lift slowly a corner of your paper to see if the pressure has been sufficient to get the ink everywhere. If not, press again, then put the paper away when you are satisfied with the quality of the inking. There are two types of ink: water based inks and oil based inks: Water based inks are easy to use because you can clean your materials with water, and some give a result nearly as good as oil based inks once dried. They also dry quicker than an oil based ink, but that can be a problem if you need a lot of time to complete your editions. If you are thinking to work with watercolor on your prints, the watercolors will also sometimes dissolve the ink. Try Sax True flow water soluble ink for example. Oil based inks give the best color once dried, and you can work on your print with water once these prints are dried, but everything you used will need to be cleaned with turpentine or some kind of dissolving product, and you can be sure your hands will stay dirty for a while, even if you put gloves. When I want to have an idea of what my print will be, I use water based ink to do a quick printing by hand. When I am sure that my cutting is what I want, I use either a better quality water based ink, or an oil based ink for the final prints.        Woodcut, oil-based ink                                                             Same print, water-based ink (There is a difference, but due to the  photo quality, not the ink) You can use any kind of paper to print on it, depending on the effect you want your print to have, but, again, if you plan to work with watercolor later, you should use a paper that will not wrinkle. The more common and traditionnal paper used for printmaking are Arches, Velin, or Lana papers, or thick papers with similar qualities that enhance the final visual result. Thiner papers coming from Japan or China are also used to change the effect of the final image and/or play with transparancy. I use Stonehenge printmaking paper. 25 sheets last me a year or two depending of what I create, and I like the texture, close to Arches papers, but less expensive  (I used to live near Arches, the town in France where they still produce this paper) You can print using a flatbed cylinder press like the ones used for printing newspaper or posters, a press made especially for block printing,  a versatile press used for different kind of printmaking like the Speedball Printmaster Press, big enough for large prints, yet still portable, or by hand, using a baren or a wooden spoon -the kind you find in a kitchen. With a flatbed cylinder press, your block must be thick enough to be reached by the cylinder, but not too thick, otherwise you will not be able to roll the cylinder on it. You must first fix your block on the plate -you can use small pieces of wood for example-, then make sure your image is centered so it will be printed in the middle of the paper you are using. Your print will be evenly colored because the pressure is the same everywhere. It is mainly the same precautions that must be respected with other press. With an versatile press like the one I cited below, you have to adjust the top roller to fit the height of your block, and make some try out before the final printing to be sure you like the amount of pressure you get. By hand, the pressure will be different from one place to another and it will show on your print. Using a baren or a wooden spoon, you must rub on the back of your paper until you are satisfied with the result. To see how things are going, you can lift a corner of your paper, then another, making sure that this paper will not slip, and rub again on it with more pressure if you think there is not enough ink.

      Images, Voyages, Impressions 1

     Prints, Photos, Fotoprints, Stories & more, to Explore, Smile, Wonder
Go to (page 2) for prints in color Numbering Sharpening your tools, Ressources & Questions
Prints in color Numbering Sharpening your tools, Ressources, & Questions
A linocut
An etching with aquatint
A linocut (with watercolor)
A woodcut (with watercolor)

Relief printing techniques

Cutting a woodblock with a gouge
“a” letter engraved in mirror than printed on paper
All contents © LD       Next shows | Blog Others sites  |  Links  | Contact & Social

Introduction

Once you ‘ll be done reading this rather long article, you’ll have a good idea of all the work involved in the creation of woodcuts, linocuts, and other prints made with relief printing techniques. If you are a printmaker doing woodcuts and linocuts, you can add two of your images and a link to your site at Woodcuts and Linocuts of the World. If you want to know even more, you can consult The Woodcut Artist’s Handbook: techniques and tools for relief printmaking, the best book I found about the topic, and what it says about woodcut can be transfered to linocuts. There is also Relief Printmaking, a manual of techniques or, if you prefer a DVD, Relief Printmaking, a good choice too. Otherwise, this article is organized as follow:  Definition Cutting Printing Prints in color (page 2) Numbering (page 2) Sharpening your tools, Resources, & Questions (page 2)

Definition

The technique used to make the prints showcased on this site is called relief printing technique, as you have to cut the wood or linoleum around the drawing in order for the image to appear in relief. This relief will then be inked, and used to make the basis of the final image, like in letter printing or stamping. In other words, you save your drawing, and get rid of the extra material around it. It is also called ""taille-d'épargne" from the French "'épargner" (saving) and "taille" (cut).  FYI: The opposite technique is called intaglio or recess process and uses metal blocks engraved by acids (etchings, mezzotints, aquatint) or cold chisels (dry point, engraving); it allows for finer lines and shades of grey, as seen below. If you want to know more about these techniques, you can consult The Art of etching or The Printmaking Bible: the complete guide to material and techniques.

Cutting

As you have to remove a lot of material from your block, relief printing techniques can only be used with "soft" materials like wood or linoleum, sometimes gerflex or PVC, rarely stone. NB: If you want to try out these techniques without spending a lot of money, try the Speedball Deluxe Block printing kit. I would not recommend it if you are a serious printer (get better tools and ink -see below) but to use in a classroom or for the occasionnal printmaker, that’s perfectly fine. I use it for try-out as the ink is easier to spread and dries quickly. Woodcut, Linocut and Wood engraving are the 3 main kinds of prints made with relief printing techniques. In each one, you draw your subject on the surface of a block and cut away every bit of material that is not the picture, using special instrument called gouges or knifes.                                                Some gouges are in V to cut fine lines, others in U to cut larger chunk of wood. Some are like a knife, but you can also use a Stanley knife, to cut precise angles or to define the contour of your image All gouges have to be sharpened regularly with a sharpening stone and oil A woodcut lets see the natural grain of the wood once printed, and it is something you can play with when deciding how to draw your picture. A linocut has less texture because of the homogenous nature of the linoleum, but it gives more contrast between the blacks and the whites. A wood engraving uses the end grain of a block of wood -it gives you a very hard surface- so the cutting is more difficult, but you can have finer lines than in the two other relief printing techniques, and you will be able to do more copies of your image before the block is destroyed by the pressure.      The surface of the blocks must be smooth if you want to be able to ink and print it entirely, so if you are using a piece of wood, you will have to sand it first using different grades of sandpaper. You can use any kind of wood, and cut with whatever you think of, even if some woods or instruments are more common. Keep in mind that the softest the material, the easiest the cutting but, also, the roughest the result. If  planning a very detailed picture with many fine lines, use a wood from a fruit tree or the end grain of a block, and allow plenty of time you will need it to do the cutting. If you want to reproduce what can be seen in reality, you will have to cut using a mirror, or use tracing paper to first draw your picture on the block.   Printing Once you are done with your cutting, or think you are, it is time to print. You will need a roller, some ink, a plate to spread the ink on it, a press, a wooden spoon or a baren, and some paper.  Put some ink on the plate, spread it using a roller until it is put evenly on the surface -and on your roller-, then roll your roller many times in every direction on your block. Put a sheet of paper on your block, press it, lift slowly a corner of your paper to see if the pressure has been sufficient to get the ink everywhere. If not, press again, then put the paper away when you are satisfied with the quality of the inking. There are two types of ink: water based inks and oil based inks: Water based inks are easy to use because you can clean your materials with water, and some give a result nearly as good as oil based inks once dried. They also dry quicker than an oil based ink, but that can be a problem if you need a lot of time to complete your editions. If you are thinking to work with watercolor on your prints, the watercolors will also sometimes dissolve the ink. Try Sax True flow water soluble ink for example. Oil based inks give the best color once dried, and you can work on your print with water once these prints are dried, but everything you used will need to be cleaned with turpentine or some kind of dissolving product, and you can be sure your hands will stay dirty for a while, even if you put gloves. When I want to have an idea of what my print will be, I use water based ink to do a quick printing by hand. When I am sure that my cutting is what I want, I use either a better quality water based ink, or an oil based ink for the final prints. Woodcut, oil-based ink                                   Same print, water-based ink (There is a difference, but due to the  photo quality, not the ink) You can use any kind of paper to print on it, depending on the effect you want your print to have, but if you plan to work with watercolor later, you should use a paper that will not wrinkle. The more common and traditionnal paper used for printmaking are Arches, Velin, or Lana papers, or thick papers with similar qualities that enhance the final visual result. Thiner papers coming from Japan or China are also used to change the effect of the final image and/or play with transparancy. I use Stonehenge printmaking paper. 25 sheets last me a year or two depending of what I create, and I like the texture, close to Arches papers, but less expensive  (I used to live near Arches, the town in France where they still produce this paper) You can print using a flatbed cylinder press like the ones used for printing newspaper or posters, a press made especially for block printing, a versatile press used for different kind of printmaking like the Speedball Printmaster Press, big enough for large prints, yet still portable, or by hand, using a baren or a wooden spoon -the kind you find in a kitchen. With a flatbed cylinder press, your block must be thick enough to be reached by the cylinder, but not too thick, otherwise you will not be able to roll the cylinder on it. You must first fix your block on the plate -you can use small pieces of wood for example-, then make sure your image is centered so it will be printed in the middle of the paper you are using. Your print will be evenly colored because the pressure is the same everywhere. It is mainly the same precautions that must be respected with other press. By hand, the pressure will be different from one place to another and it will show on your print. Using a baren or a wooden spoon, you must rub on the back of your paper until you are satisfied with the result. To see how things are going, you can lift a corner of your paper, then another, making sure that this paper will not slip, and rub again on it with more pressure if you think there is not enough ink. Go to Next page  for
       Images, Voyages, Impressions 1       Prints, Photos, Fotoprints, Stories, to Explore, Smile, Wonder