Continued from The Linocut Process - Part 1
How to Make Multi-Color Linocut Prints
Now that we've gone over the basics of making a simple, one-color linoleum print, I'll go over a few techniques for making multi-color linocuts. You can use the reduction method or multiple block technique to make prints with more than one color. I sometimes use both methods on the same print like on this Lake Tahoe print - A Noble Sheet of Blue Water. However, there's a relatively easy way to add a pop of color to a print using a technique called the rainbow roll, also known as a gradient or blended roll.
Reduction Linocut Print Technique
One of my favorite linocut techniques is the reduction print method, when you use the same linoleum block to print multiple colors. It sort of requires a whole different mindset when making a print so I've broken down all the steps of the reduction print process.
Multi-Block Lino Printing Process
As the name of this process implies, each color in the print is made from a different block. So, for example, if you're going to have four colors in your final print, you're going to carve four different blocks. Now there are ways to squeeze more colors into that final image using those four blocks by carefully inking different parts of the block in different colors. Maybe the top half of the block is blue, while the bottom is red. In other words, you might be able to get six colors out of those four blocks.
A challenge of this technique is making sure that each of the blocks are registered (i.e. line up) correctly. This will ensure that each block's image lines up nicely as the multiple layers stack up as you print them one by one. Printmakers have all different ways to ensure good registration. Personally, I like using a homemade, "L"-shaped wooden registration jig (picture in this blog post), which helps me lay the paper on the block the exact same way every time. A nice thing about using multiple blocks is that you have more control over the final print because you can test and tweak the blocks and colors before printing the final edition.
Rainbow Roll Technique
A rainbow roll is also known as a blended or gradient roll. The premise is that you load your brayer with two or more colors and then roll that onto your carved linoleum block. The simplest version would be a two-color blended roll. You put two dabs of different color inks on your rolling out surface (probably glass). Separate those dabs of ink by a couple inches depending on your width of your brayer. Spread the ink up and down with palette knives and then roll out the ink with your brayer slowly. The ink with spread out on your brayer and will eventually meet in the middle creating a color gradient. I think this quick video I posted showing me inking up a linoleum block with a blended (e.g. rainbow, gradient) roll will help you visualize the process.
Linocut Printed T-Shirts
One main difference between printing on paper versus fabric is the ink used if washability is a factor. I typically use Speedball's Fabric Block Printing Ink or Gamblin's Drive by Black Textile Ink. You can also experiment with screen printing textile inks like Speedball's Fabric Screen Printing Ink, Jacquard Screen Printing Ink, or Versatex Screen Printing Ink. Block printing with screen printing ink takes some getting used to and be sure to try a foam brayer when working with these inks.
If you're interested, I have a whole page dedicated to printing linocuts on t-shirts and fabric, including tips and a video.
Linoleum Block Printing Tips and Techniques
Over the years, I've written about techniques and tricks for linoleum block printing. Here are a few posts:
- How to make an inexpensive baren.
- Designing a print drying rack that hangs from the ceiling.
- Transferring your key block design for carving another block.
- Process of carving a large three-foot linoleum block.
- Using a box cutter and coping saw, you can make a narrow brayer for inking small areas of the block.
- Example of linocut printed t-shirts.
- Fixing linocut mistakes.
I think these are very good general printmaking books. The more contemporary book, The Printmaking Bible, has a much longer linocut section.
- The Printmaking Bible by Ann d'Arcy Hughes and Hebe Vernon-Morris
- The Complete Printmaker by John Ross, Clare Romano and Tim Ross
These are some recommended books highlighting the work of two amazing relief printmakers:
- Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art by Krause, Yurtseven and Acton
- The High Sierra of California by Snyder and Killion
- McClain's Printmaking Supplies is an excellent online source for supplies like ink, paper, blocks and tools.
- Dick Blick is a large and dependable retailer of art supplies, including printmaking supplies.
- Linocut Friends is a large and active Facebook group for linocut artists.
- Hida Tool & Hardware sells carving tools and sharpening supplies from its Berkeley, California store.