Thursday, March 12, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Four quick steps

Time to turn my attention to the birds. Small, but I hope intriguing.

Because the birds take up so little real estate on the block there isn't any point in inking the entire surface of the lino. Reasons? 1) Avoid build-up of ink layers where they aren't needed, 2) save ink, 3) save time, and joy of joys 4) save cleanup.

But there's a little prep work to do before printing can happen. First, I have to cut what I call an "inking mask."

Inking mask cut from mylar

An inking mask allows me to roll out ink only where I want it on the block. (More or less, this is never a completely accurate system.) In this case I have cut the silhouette of both birds from a sheet of clear mylar or acetate. Easy peasy.

However, if I were to run the block through the press with just this little area inked, I run the risk of the "dry" areas of the block pulling existing ink layers right off the prints.

Enter the "printing mask."

Printing mask in place on inked block on the press bed.
(The metal pins at the top of the image are for registration.)

A printing mask is a sheet of newsprint large enough to cover the entire block, with a hole cut in it to expose only the inked area of the block. The print is placed face down over the newsprint.

Depending on how large the area is and how wet the previous ink layers are I can sometimes use a newsprint mask more than once, but sometimes I have to cut a mask for each print in the edition. If you look closely at this photo you can see where slightly damp ink from a print has offset to the newsprint. Better here than stuck to the block!

I used these masks to complete the next four color passes in relatively short order:

Step 4: white (to make a gray)

Step 5: yellow

Step 6: rusty orange

Step 7: gray

The birds are not completely finished at this stage... they need an additional dark... but I didn't want to set that until the surrounding values were finished.

From here it's back to the water, with a lot of carving to be done before I can print.


  1. It's like magic, SLY, seriously. Presto-chango! There are ducks in the water! (Or--there is water!)

  2. Sometimes it seems like magic to me, and I was here watching it the whole time! I never really know what's going to happen.... :-)

  3. I'm going to guess Slavonian Grebes but I may be wrong. Not sure what you American Birders call them, Horned Grebe?
    Nice looking print already

  4. Yes, Stuart... Horned grebe! Whew! Glad to know they look identifiable. ;-)

  5. gorgeous work :D just amazed at what you do, makes me keep trying to make lino work for me