One of the most popular and accessible methods of making a print. Linoleum is one of the many materials now available to make a relief print. See also woodcut. Lino is often used to make relief-printing blocks. It is smooth, without a grain, easy to draw on and has the advantage of becoming softer and easier to cut when warmed.
Single block prints
The image is drawn onto the block of lino and areas that are not part of the image are then cut away, leaving the image in relief. Ink is then rolled onto the block and paper is placed on top. Pressure is applied to the back of the paper using a press or by hand to transfer the ink to the paper.
Linocut: Detail from Café: Sally Hands
The graphic qualities of relief printmaking work particularly well with an approach based on drawings which have strong tonal contrasts. Lino is a stable material which can be cut easily in any direction and allows a wide range of marks to be made. Preparatory drawings can easily be altered in scale with a photocopier and transferred to the block ready for cutting.
NB: All relief prints give a reverse image. In order to retain you image the same way round, it has to be reversed onto the block. This is particularly important if you are using lettering.
Any tools which can make a mark in the lino can be used, including motorized power tools. There are specialised gouges and knives which give more predictable results.
Linocut using gouges detail: Alan Figg
Single block linocut with hand colouring using water colour detail: Mexico: Stuart Evans
In addition to one-colour printing, multiple blocks can be used to produce multi colour prints each block carries different colours and need to be registered carefully when printing
Multiblock linocut detail: Raeburn, Teapot and Black Dog: Sally Hands
The reduction method much favoured by Picasso can also be used to produce multi colour prints from one block making the registration process much easier. Each colour is printed in turn on the entire edition of the print then cut away making way for the next colour until the there is very little left of the original block. This method has its pitfalls and needs planning but is an exciting way of making colour prints.
Reduction linocut detail: Robert Macdonald
Bernard Green was an artist who produced a brilliant range of landscapes using this method with amazingly subtle gradations of tone. He worked very largely in Pembrokeshire. Due to the generosity of his widow, we have his Columbian Press in Swansea Print Workshop.
Linoleum was being made from around the 1860’s but its potential as a printmaking material was not exploited until around the turn of the century. Franz Cisek, a Viennese art educator introduced it as a medium for children to use. Its potential was quickly recognised by artists and illustrators alike and it has continued to be widely used in schools. It was also a great medium for making posters and features largely in the history of oppressed groups of people who were denied access to commercial printing methods.
Relief Printmaking: Ann Westley: A&C Black: ISBN 0-7136-5036-2
Printmaking Handbooks Series: conceived as an introduction to various topics and techniques related to making prints. The books are aimed at the student or the practiced printmaker who is experimenting in a new area.
The Complete Manual of Relief Printmaking: Katie Clemson and Rosemary Simmons:Alfred A. Knopf. New York 1988:ISBN 0-394-56853-2
Excellent book that is out of print but can be sourced second hand