Updated: May 19
I’d like to share with you a new print that I’ve been working on January. Below I've mapped out each stage of the process of creating the linocut design, so that you get a real feel of what’s involved.
Step 1: Planning the design
I mainly work from photographs, usually my own that I’ve taken whilst out walking or cycling. I find it easier to work in Adobe Illustrator to draw my design, as it’s a program I use all the time for my graphic design work. This way I can roughly colour up the design to see how the colour balance works and also visualise how I will split the colours down into different plates. The design needs to be reversed before transferring onto the lino, so it out that way.
I’ve had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about creating seascapes, I’m more at home in the countryside, with trees and paths that lead your eye through the image. I was also finding that the straight horizon line of the sea in many photos I’d taken, was making the design look quite flat. I think I cracked it in the end!
Step 2: Test cuts
I often do a few quick test cuts and prints on sections of my designs to get a feel for the line width I want to create and which linocut tools to use to create that. I’ve also not done many buildings before and they’re quite small scale, so I wanted to get them right . My prints are distilled down to simple silhouettes, rather than lots of detail, so it’s about striking a balance.
Step 3: Cutting plate 1
I transfer the design to my Lino with good old fashioned carbon paper. I then pencil more detail in. I like to create much of the detailing as I’m cutting, rather than meticulously inking the design onto the lino.
I have a set of 6 Pfeil lino cutting tools and on this plate, I’ve used most of them. Some are v cut and others u cut, in different widths.
Step 4. Transferring the design to plate 2
To transfer the design to the 2nd plate I ink up plate 1 with water based inks. I quickly transfer this onto trancing paper, apply this to the 2nd plate and rub it with the back of a spoon. This all needs to be done very quickly before the inks dry.
Step 5. Cutting plate 2
Here I’m cutting plate 2. I’ve cut the sky into plate 1 and 2 as I’m going to see which works better when I do the test prints. The sky, bushes and sea will be 3 different colours, so I’ll see how tricky it is to ink on the same plate.
Step 6. Colour
I love playing with colour. Here I’ve pulled together the blue I’ve used on other prints and a Farrow and Ball paint palette.
I mix all my colours from Hawthorns’s oil based inks and keep the ‘recipe’ for each colour in a sketchbook. Here I’ve mixed a blue, grey, transparent. The very pale blue for the sky is predominately transparent ink. I add the tiniest amount of colour to tint as the pigments as the inks are quite strong.
Step 7: Test printing and adjusting the plate
Here I’m doing a test print in the actual colours I’ll be using. I often use the backs of rejected prints so that I’m not wasting paper. I’ll print the 2 plates wet on wet, rather than waiting for them to dry in-between, as it’s just to see if the colour balance works. I look to see if I need to make any adjustments to the plates.
Sometimes, as with this print, I’ll take a picture and digitally whiten out the areas I’m thinking of cutting away in Photoshop first to see if it works. There’s nothing worse than spending hours cutting a plate and then wishing you’d not cut that extra bit off. With this print I felt that it needed something to draw you eye through the picture. In the original photo the band nearest the rocks is sand, so I decided to cut that away. At this point I feel a bit sick, one slip and you’ve messed up the complete plate.
Other tweaks I made where cutting some of the sky away where it touch the horizon and neatening up soem of the bushes and houses.
I also wanted to see how the colours sat with my other blue prints as a collection.
Step 8. Preparing paper and masks
I use Ternes Burton pins to help register my prints. The metal pins are tapped onto a piece of board and I tape the plastic tabs onto the back of my paper. When each lino plate that I’m using is placed in the same place, then each colour printed should line up.
If I’ve got larger areas of cut away in the lino I tend to make a mask. I do this so that if I do get ink on that area it doesn't transfer to the paper. I don’t think I’ve seen other people do this but it works for me. I’d love to hear if there’s a better/different way of doing it.
Step 9: Printing plate 1
Plate 1 is just one colour, the denim blue. As there’s lots of fine detail in the houses, I need to be a bit lighter with the inking and pressure so that it didn’t bleed and go blobby.
I usually print 10 of the edition to start with. I then leave them to dry overnight before printing the second plate.
Step 10: Printing plate 2
Plate 2 is made up of 3 colours, the very pale blue for the sky, the deep indigo blue for the bushes and the turquoise for the sea. It’s quite fiddly to ink so I use smaller rollers. The very pale blue is nearly impossible to see on the plate as it has so much transparent ink in it and the lino itself is grey.
Step 11: Finished design
Ta da! The finished Robin Hoods Bay print, ready for mounting and framing.
I'm really pleased with the design. I'd love to hear what you think.