new work meet the maker

Block Printing, part II

The exciting part of block print making is…the printing! You’ve painstakingly cut away your design and now you’re ready to see what your design actually looks like.

Start by covering your work surface with newspapers or plastic, for easy clean up. Put a little dollop of ink on a glass palate (a glass baking/casserole/pie dish works fine, too)— I recommend using water-based printing ink, as it is completely washable and non-toxic. Be careful here, and start with less ink than you think you’d need—a little goes a long way. Roll the brayer through the ink in different directions. Try to spread a thin, even layer of ink on the glass. Next, using steady pressure, roll the brayer over your linoleum, first back and forth, then side to side. Be sure to cover right to the edges and corners of your design.

Next move the linoleum to a clean work surface, ink side up, and place the paper over it. Take an extra moment to line the paper up square with your print before you lay it down.

Gently rub the paper with your hand or, if you have an extra, clean brayer, use that (I bet a rolling pin would be great for this job). Keep your hand flat when rubbing, so you don’t press down into the cuts of the design and end up printing something you didn’t want (ink can sometimes get into the depressions).

Carefully lift the paper off, pulling from one side. You can take a peek at the print before you lift it off completely, and see if there are any areas that could use a little more rubbing.

The amount of ink you use makes a significant difference in the quality of the print (as shown above), so experiment until you get the look you want.

Now that you have your first print, you can see if there is anything you want to change—raised areas to remove, shapes to refine, design elements or details to add.

Yay, a print! Make as many as you want. Create a custom set of cards as a gift, make tiny prints and use them like stamps. Explore multi-color printing, or try embellishing your black-ink prints with colored pencil. Make limited-edition prints and give them to friends (tell ’em they’ll be worth money someday when you are a famous block-print artist).

Useful info I forgot to include in my Block Printing Part I post: Because the linoleum is hard and can be difficult to cut away, heating it up will make it more pliable, and much easier to remove. Toss it in the microwave for 10 seconds, blow a hot hair dryer on it for a minute, or place it in the sun for a while before you start.

Leave a Reply