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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Registration of reduction lino prints! Part 2

Second part of my Guide to Registration of lino reductions, is going to start of with some ink advice..... prompted by Carol Nunan, of Horsley Printmakers (super printmaking courses) comment on my previous post about registration......
Chapter 3: inking up your lino reduction: As we talked about before, a choice has to be made between waterbased or oil based blockprinting inks, there are advantages to both, and disadvantages.....
First we'll have a look at waterbased ink: great for cleaning up, but not so fantastic for good ink coverage, sometimes the later colours do not want to entirely cover the previous printed areas, why? I have found a couple of reasons for this, and anyone reading this is VERY invited to add their own comments to this subject, greatly appreciated, not least by me!
*not enough ink: as I always warn students, do not apply too much ink to the plate, it just gets messy and the paper tends to scoot along on the slippery surface of the plate, but! Don't apply to little ink either, your eye will eventually know exactly when you have enough ink on the lino,
as simple as that, but before that, how to judge, well, you should of course not be able to see the lino surface through the ink, but neither should the ink lie like frosting on your plate...... when you apply the ink to the roller, don't roll the roller right into the big "blob" of ink, pick up the ink little by little on the edge of your "blob", spread the ink out with a palette knife on your roll up surface, so it is easier to pick up little at a time with your roller, you don't want a "goosepimple" look on your roller, this tends to be too much ink, if so, jut roll it off on a piece of newspaper, better to apply little ink at a time to the lino for more control.
* the ink is old : yes, it happens, as it is waterbased, with the lid coming on and off the whole time, in the end the ink is so thickened that it does not want to adhere to the paper.
Solution: a help is to put what you are going to use this time into a smaller container for you to take out what you need, limiting the time the ink in the larger container is exposed to air. It is not a great idea either to scrape of the ink you have been rolling up and putting it back in the container... it feels frugal, but comes back to haunt you, better to get out the ink a little at a time. When doing a larger edition, I mix up the colour in a separate container to be sure I have enough of a mixed color, and yes...I have lots of "not really" colours on my shelf, occupational hazard :o!
* the previous color is not dry: printing wet on wet, can sometimes work, especially if the first colour is solid, but I find that as soon as you start cutting, the relief area, kind of shines through, when printing wet on wet. How dry does it need to be? Touch dry can be enough, but I like to leave the prints at least 8 hours in between printing if I can....... and yes, if you have lots of people printing, you end up with prints all over the studio! Adds to the fun!
Last but not least I have to also add, that I have used the "not covering completely" to great effect, getting an almost painterly look on lots of prints, in the colour stages, the black outline of course, is a totally different matter, as you want that to cover.
Oilbased ink: tricky for cleaning up, but wonderful kind of velvety colours
* Does not cover well: could be because you don't have enough ink on the plate, again, same as with the waterbased ink applies. I find that wetting the paper, helps a lot in getting a good coverage, just like you would for printing an etching.
* the ink is too stiff (hard), a great advantage with oilbased inks are of course that they last a lot longer, as you can mix a tiny bit of oil into the inks when they get to stiff, very careful though, drop by drop is the trick! have added too much oil, you can to a certain degree stiffen the ink again by adding talcum powder, but this is not a cure, just a solution if in great need ;o)
* drying time for oilbased inks, is of course a lot longer than for waterbased, but...... it is easier to print wet on wet, I have had good results with up to 3 colours in the same day, but if you have the time, why rush it?

Chapter 3: Making a registration matrix
Reading my printmaking books, searching on the net, getting advice from people, I found when I started out with lino reductions, that there are a multitude of ways to complicate life :o) this is not for me... I don't have the personality for taping, sticking down, drawing up, and all the other stuff I was adviced to do to print reductions... you might, in which case you will probably have many more successful printruns than I do, and that's great.... don't let anyone tell you that something can't be done.... what rubbish! I have heard that you can't print a reduction on an etching press... well, I do it a couple of times a week, so that is patently not true... you do need a bit of patience and a steady hand to do it "my way", but... it is easy and fast and keeps the fun happening, plus, a necessity for me is, as my press works the whole time, I can't tie it up to print only one thing, my week consist of lots of different kinds of printing, and with a matrix, it just comes off the bed of the press, and on to printing etchings or whatever else I am doing!
So... you need :
*a piece of cardboard of approx the same thickness as your lino, it can be a bit thinner, not much, but can not be thicker.
*cut it to the same size as your print, that is, the size of your paper.
* place your plate on the piece of cardboard, and draw around it, try to be as EXACT as you can,
with a matknife, cut out the shape of your plate, as EXACT as you can!
Your lino should now fit in the matrix very snuggly, adjust so it does fit, if it is too tight, the press will adjust it for you, and that is not a good idea.... you're the boss!
*Choose your corner and edge to align the paper to, what feels the most comfortable for you?
I always do the left hand corner and vertical edge , but this is a personal choice, and it can depend on the shape and size of your lino plate. A tip here, why not start out with some smaller plates before going to bigger? I tend to dive right in.... hey ho..... 50 x 70 cm was my first plate, and hardly a hair left on my head by the time I was "finished" , in every sense of the word ;o)
* to start with, always come from the same side of the press, doing a reduction can be a bit of a head game, and I have seen students aligning the paper to the opposite edge out of confusion, set yourself up so it is as easy and as repetitive as possible, as your mind will be more on the creative side, than on the printing side. As you work and print, work and print, on the reduction plate, it is hard to stay as focused as you need to be on the printing, so simplify!
Last for today: some advice on the printing:
if your matrix ends up with ink on it (and it will) you can either prepare it by spraypainting (choose a light color) it so you can easily wipe off the ink, this is especially worth while if you like one size plate so much that most of your prints are that size, so you can use the same matrix over and over. Please note though, that eventually the cardboard gets so compressed by the press that you need a new piece anyway. Or, if you have wet ink on the matrix, dust it with a bit of talcum powder, it adheres to the ink so it does not transfer to your paper, I dust between every print to make sure they are squeaky clean! A real bug of mine, are all the prints you see that have fingerprints on the paper......really!
OK, that's enough for time: on the practicalities of choosing numbers of colours and the order they come in, and how many prints do I do?


  1. Another excellent post Mariann. I recently used this registration method in our linocuts summer school and it worked a treat. Looking forward to the next instalment. Might start my own on collagraphs.

  2. Great idea, Carol! And any input is super appreciated! :o)

  3. Great post Mariann, thanks - haven't yet found the ideal registration method but this could be it! It sounds so obvious....will definitely be trying it for my next lino.

  4. I have trouble with my press when I do linoleum prints. The Roller will not accept the additional height of the lino (I assume that's what's happening). Any advice?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Anonymus!
      I am not trying to offend you, but will ask first, have you cut the "hole" for your linoplate so it fits in snuggly to the matrix? The piece of cardboard can, if you have a press witha personality, be as big as your press bed, so you actually set the pressure on the cardboard, when you then roll over the lino, it is level with the rest of the bed, and the rollers does not even know it is there! Does that make sense? If not, you can have a look at my linoreduction and lino mix and match movie on youtube, go to and click on printmaking movies, you see clearly in these 2 films how the matrix is done.... hope this helps, and welcome back if you need more advice!