Reduction Linocut Printing

Reduction linocut printing is a process whereby a single lino plate is used to create a limited edition of prints. The plate is prepared by cutting with lino cutting tools. The plate’s relief is inked up with a roller and then printed by running through an etching press or using an Albion press.
The process is to produce an image, step by step, using many layers of colour by cutting away areas on the plate that are to have a particular colour in the finished work, print a colour and then repeat the process for each colour until all desired colours are printed.

By way of illustration, these are the steps I took to produce one of the prints in the gallery ‘White Cat, Dappled Light’. This print, essentially, takes five steps to apply the six different colours that this print consists of (white, pink, blue, green, lilac and brown).

Step 1
The first step was to cut away any areas that I wanted to remain white. I then inked the plate with first colour I chose, in this case pink, and printed the white and pink image as below:

Step 2
Following step one I then cut away any areas that I wanted to remain pink. I inked the plate with the second colour which, in this example, is blue and printed this blue on the image printed from step one above. This gave:

Step 3
This time I cut away the areas that I wanted to stay blue and inked the plate with my third colour, green. I then printed the green on the prints from step two with the following result:

Step 4
I repeat the process for the fourth colour which in this case is lilac. It now appears as:

Step 5
Finally, I repeated it for my last colour of brown giving the six-colour finished print like this:

Final Comments ...
A crucial process is lining up the paper on which the print is being made so that the successive images in steps one to five all align; this is called registration. A number of small techniques make registration easier: I have an outline of the plate marked on a plastic sheet which lies on the bed of the press meaning I can position the plate in the same place for each colour. Additionally, I use pieces of card taped down to mark the position of the paper and I then trap the paper in the roller after aligning it with the markers to prevent it moving.
Getting the sequence of colours right is also important and, similarly, opaque colours on transparent or the reverse, can give different effects. In some cases acetate masks can be used if strong colours are wanted but not to cover the whole plate.
The nature of reduction linocut printing is that it is ‘destructive’ in that the plate is progressively cut between printing each new colour and so it is impossible to ‘go back’ and produce further prints once a run is complete. I generally produce small editions of eight prints.

mc 1/5/13