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Step by Step Block Printing Tutorial

As promised, I’ve written a step by step Lino Printmaking tutorial.

Firstly, here is a list of materials you will need (you should be able to get most of these items at your local art shop or there are plenty of great online printing suppliers);

  • Cutting Block (traditional linoleum or I like to use the Blue Softcut Polymer blocks which carve beautifully)

  • Cutting Tools - ideally one with a narrow cutting end for detail and then a large rounded tool for carving away large areas.

  • Block Printing Ink

  • Brayer

  • Ink tray / Perspex sheet

  • Baren

  • Sharpie Marker

  • Soft Pencil

  • Tracing Paper

  • Paper to print onto

To start, you’ll need to draw your design, if you’re feeling brave you could draw this straight onto the block using your Sharpie Marker or you could draw your design and then trace in pencil and transfer to the block by rubbing the underside of the tracing paper. Bare in mind that your finished print will be in reverse which is especially important if you are adding text to your design - I’ve spent ages carving a print only to be hugely disappointed when I forget this! After you’re happy with your design it’s onto the fun part, the carving.

I tend to carve the outline first with my fine detail tool and then clear away with my much larger rounded tool. When I’m using ‘scraps’ of the block and there is no background to my image, I use a craft knife to cut around the design which also helps to leave a clean background when transferring to the paper.

Next it’s onto carving the detail. When doing so, keep in mind that the areas you are carving away will be the areas with the paper left clear. You could keep your design simple which lends well to block printing, or create a gorgeous, detailed print full of fine lines, the world is your lobster! Oh hang on....

Moving swiftly on to the next stage, which is inking! This part can get very messy so newspaper (especially when using oil based ink) or a wipe clean work surface is a good idea.

Only a small amount of ink is required which you need to roll out in your tray or on perspex until it's nice and tacky. Then, roll the ink onto your block to get a nice even coverage, wiping away any ink you get onto the background. When you are happy you can carefully place the block onto a flat surface ready to print. I sometimes use a piece of paper the same size as my printing paper to place the block on to make sure you are happy with the positioning.

Once you're happy (and your hands are clean to prevent any smudging), take your paper and place it on the top of the block using your hands to press it down and prevent any slipping when you burnish the print. For this part you can use your Printmaking Baren (or a wooden spoon will do the trick) and start rubbing away! You can lift a corner to check how the ink has transferred and when you are satisfied, slowly lift the paper.

Et voila! Now stand back and admire your print!

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