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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Registration of reduction lino prints!

Karen, who is a wonderful painter, has been given (nice) an etching press and got in touch with me last week, asking some very relevant questions about registration of a reduction lino print, and as these questions keep coming, I thought I would try to write a shortish little helpful guide to what it could be that is giving you problems..... like a trouble shooter!

I'll try and do it in a couple of chapters, first dealing with the major issues, and then a guide step by step, so please keep an eye out for the next chapter!
Chapter 1: Pressure on your etching press

All presses are individual, so this is a chapter that takes a bit of work from you, the printer..... as a rule, I see in workshops I give, that many students, equate more pressure with a better print,
this is a certain recipe for disaster, too much pressure pushes the ink around, pushes the paper around, and you have no control, always think of that a linocut is a relief print, the ink sits on top
of the plate, as little pressure as you can get away with, gives you the most successful prints!
My suggestion is that you try to ink up a piece of lino, with no cutting, and send it through, again and again, on varying degrees of pressure, to find that sweet spot on YOUR press that gives a good ink coverage, at the same time as the plate and paper stays in place.
Chapter 2: Paper and Ink
Hold on, because here comes a load of info... all of it totally opinionated :o)))
Waterbased Blockprinting inks: Great, I love them, they come in all kinds of brands, I prefer Talens over all the others..... colours are nicer, texture is great, but you can't beat Daler-Rowney for economy,so so colours gives you a fantastic opportunity to become really good at mixing, although they have recently added some super zippy orange/purple/cyan etc, that are really good! The price is super if you are playing around, trying out, wanting to have fun, lots of waste etc.....
The fantastic thing with waterbased is the clean up, so quick and so not messy..... when you are printing maybe 30 prints in an edition and you put a bit too much ink on and want to clean the plate, waterbased is just LOVELY!
Does it beat oilbased for colour density etc, NO, it does not..... oilbased blockprinting inks like Speedball, again come in some very basic colours, but give you a dense, beautiful and quite lustrous colour, I always use oilbased for my black and whites, as you simply can't get that warm sooty black with waterbased inks + the coverage is much better, as you can dampen your paper for printing. Yes, with oilbased blockprinting inks, in my opinion, the est result comes with a slightly dampened paper, as if for printing an etching.
But what a mess to clean...... and if you want to print a plate with both, water and oil, you had better clean really well, it can be done though, with liberal amounts of Fairy liquid (washing up liquid of high quality) or other grease removers, forget solvents, you get just as good a result, if not better, using oil first and then a grease remover or good washing up liquid, apply liberally and scrub with a brush until clean.
Again, trying, is really the way to find out what you prefer, but for the novice, go waterbased to start with and take it from there is my advice.
Ahhh, paper....... ok, here goes, for lino's I prefer a harder, lighter paper, for price to quality for example Zerkall White is not a bad choice, available in the UK from Lawrence's Artsupplies,
or in the US, Stonehenge from Blick Artsupplies, good for fooling around with at a reasonable price. Put in "printmaking papers" in your search engine and see who is close to you!
The more texture, and the heavier the paper is, the trickier it gets. Texture especially, to be avoided in the beginning, but some wonderful results can be had with oilbased inks.
Handmade, Japanese etc, for beginners, hmmm, if making life really difficult is your thing, then go for it!
Some art suppliers sell sample books of printmaking paper, they are a great investment for trying out and for "feeling" the paper.
Cheap, any kind will do paper, sure, you can print a lino on a teabag if you want, but why make lemons out of the lemonade? With experience, and when you know your press, know your inks, then have FUN, fool around..... do it in the beginning, and I see how it puts students off lino's for life..... make life easy for yourself whilst you are learning and lino can become a lifelong love!

OK, that's the first chapters....... and it's getting close to my "go to work" time..... so more from me tomorrow.... when we start on the actual JOB! First up..... making a registration matrix!!

See you tomorrow!


  1. great, great info. so, when are we making your book? I see it in my mind's eye!! by the way, i have a little gift for you. a crafty friend of mine uses it and i IMMEDIATELY thought of you. It's a tounge-in cheek and only for handmade works. let's meet for a coffee soon. :)

  2. Looking forward to the next steps. Always interested to hear how others do it. Do you use an etching press for printing? We use oil based inks (Hawthorn Print Supplies) which as you say gives great dense lustrous colour. The down side is in a workshop situation where people want to print more than 2 colours in a weekend it can be tricky printing wet on wet ink on an etching press.

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  4. Hi and thanks for the interesting information. Do you know where you can buy Talens inks online? Thank you!