About lino printing tools

In a previous post I gave links to soft ‘lino’ (actually PVC) for making relief prints. As you can see from the finished print,

mermaid 16 20180108

sharp definition is possible, and it doesn’t require as much force to cut as proper artists’ lino. The drawback, however, is that material cut away does not easily break off, as it does with ordinary lino, so that a line of PVC is left attached at one end. It is then necessary to use a flat blade to cut the attached end. This is sometimes trickier than it sounds.

With regular artists’ lino, at the end of a cut a simple upward pull with the cutting tool or fingers is sufficient to break off the piece to be removed.

On the other hand, regular artists’ lino can get hard and the effort to cut it can reduce control. Lino gets harder with age so newer lino will be easier to work with. A common trick is to run an iron over it to warm it up before carving, but this needs to be done repeatedly and tends to interrupt the flow of the work. I have found that using better cutting tools is the best answer, as shown below. (These are Japanese woodcarving tools. The Swann Morton scalpel you can just about see is not included in the set.)

mermaid-lino-5a

Linocut boy recommends Pfeil tools. They certainly look the business and I intend to try them. More information about Pfeil tools here.

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How to make a lino print

My latest print is yet another mermaid. Why mermaids? My excuse is that they are not only beautiful, echoing as they do the female form (and actually no further excuse is really required), but also symbolise the ability to move between two different worlds.

A mermaid can see fish but she realises at the same time that she is not a fish. Similarly we can (with practice) see out own thoughts and realise we are not those thoughts. We can become aware of the water.

This is a smaller print, approximately 150x100mm, consistent in size with this mermaid print on Etsy.

Here is the initial pencil sketch:

m016 copy
Mermaid pencil sketch

This I scanned into the computer and then printed out again on tracing paper. Using a soft pencil (4B, but 6B would be better) I traced over the lines on the front of the image and then turned it over onto the lino. By going over the same lines again using a hard (H) pencil the pencil marks were transferred to the lino.

This produces a reversed image on the lino so that the final print will be the same way round as the original sketch.

This works well on pale soft lino. (I shall have further comments to make about this product in a later post.) Darker lino might require the use of chalk or soft pastel instead of soft pencil to transfer the image. The lines can be inked over for better clarity and also to modify the drawing if this is desired.

The photograph below shows the soft lino block marked up and mostly already cut. As you can see I used a cutting board to reduce hazards both to the table top and to my fingers. The cutting tools are Japanese wood block tools for softwood and are far superior to the usual lino cutting tools (more on tools later).

mermaid 16 first carve with tools
Mermaid lino cut in progress

Below is the set-up for printing. I am using an inking tray from Amazon although a piece of thick glass would do. A flexible palette knife is handy for spreading the ink. In this case I am using water-soluble printing ink. TIP: if using water-soluble ink, clean both the surface of the lino and the brayer (ink roller) with soap and water or with alcohol because greasy fingerprints will stop the ink from taking.

mermaid 16 set-up for printing
Set-up for lino printing

Next place your paper over the image. I used tracing paper for the first print and used the back of a spoon to rub the back of the paper in order to transfer the image to the paper. If you are using opaque paper you can still check the progress of your work by carefully lifting a corner of the paper – as long as you don’t lift too much you will not affect the registration of the image. You could also use a press but then you will have to do many experiments to get the pressure just right.

mermaid 16 in progress
Checking the print

As you can see below, the first impression showed up many small areas which should have been cut away. Since these areas take up the ink it is easy to see where corrections are necessary.

mermaid 16 first impression 2
Mermaid lino print first impression showing errors

Here is the final image, available printed on tracing paper or opaque white paper in a signed limited edition of 30:

mermaid 16 20180108
Mermaid lino print