My Block Printing Process
Today I thought I’d tell you a bit about my printing process. I’m planning on a step by step tutorial in the near future but just wanted to say a little about my printing method.
First I decide on the subject matter, which I tend to flick through books for inspiration on (I’m obsessed with botanical books and beautiful archives of vintage illustrations),or an idea will pop into my head that I just have to turn into a print whether its successful or not! I then draw the image straight onto the block using a Sharpie marker. The only downside to this method is the permanence of the marker, however after I have finished carving, some basic Cream Surface Cleaner tends to fade the ink so it doesn’t transfer onto your paper.
I mostly keep the drawing simple and then carve the detail, I like to call this my ‘winging it method’ but I do find it helps me make more considered marks as there’s little room for error - or at least that’s my excuse and really I’m impatient and like to crack on with the fun part, the carving!
For more detailed designs I will sketch on paper first, then trace and transfer onto the block. My preferred block, as an alternative to traditional Lino is the Blue Easy Carve Polymer Sheets you can purchase from Amazon. They carve like butter and of all the blocks I’ve tried are my absolute go to!
For my favourite part, the carving, I use my treasured Pfeil tools. My go to tools are a 1mm V groove and a 0.5mm rounded groove. These are great for detail and then I use a much larger rounded groove Pfeil tool for clearing away the background etc (I also use a rounded tool for little circles by holding it upright and slowly turning it)
When I’m happy with my carving I clean and dry the block and do a test print using an ink pad to see if any areas need tidying up. This saves a big wash up with an ink tray and brayer and I can check my design as i go if necessary.
Now it’s onto the exciting part...printing time! My favourite inks to use are Caligo Safewash by Cranfield Colours. They are oil based but clean up with soap and water. The colours are beautifully opaque and they print so nicely without drying out too quickly. The brayer I use is a soft rubber Speedball one which I have found gives a much nicer print than the really hard type. Once I’ve rolled the ink to the right consistency I make sure all areas of the block are covered, register the block onto paper - either by eye or with pencil markings then lay my paper on top and it’s time to start burnishing!
I burnish my prints by hand using a plastic printing Baren (I’ve got my eye on the beautiful Japanese Ball Bearing type - maybe Santa will bring me one if I’m on the nice list!). The back of a wooden spoon also does the trick and it’s a great arm workout!
To make sure I have a nice clean print I carefully lift the corners to check and then go over any areas again, adding more ink if necessary before it’s time for the big reveal...ta da!
I hope my Blog has given you an insight into my Block Printing process! Now to clean up.... meh!
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