There are four main techniques to make linocut prints with more than one colour.
Reduction lino print
Multi-block lino print
Jigsaw lino print
Hand-coloured lino print
What is a reduction linocut print?
Reduction linocut is a method of block printing in which each colour layer is carved into the same lino block. Part of the design is carved into the block and printed. The process is then repeated for each layer of colour. The design is often printed working from the lightest first to darkest colours last. Often referred to as a ‘sabotage’ print.
The advantage of this method is that registration (how each colour layer lines up) is easier.
The block is destroyed as each layer is carved. Once the edition is printed you can’t go back to print more.
What is a multi-block linocut print?
Multi-block linocut is a method of block printing in which more than one piece of lino is used to create a design. Often each colour to be printed is carved onto a separate lino block.
I now use the multi-block method for all my multi-coloured prints
The advantage of this method is that you can print part of the edition and go back to print more in the future.
The lino block isn’t destroyed as with the reduction print technique.
The design can be test printed first and the lino blocks and colours adjusted before printing the final edition.
As the design is carved into several blocks it is harder to accurately register the design.
Multi-block print example: How the hare linocut for my online course is made
This 3-colour print hare was made for my How to make a multi-block linocut print online course.
The images below show the individually carved lino blocks and the lino print as each layer was printed. I printed light to dark.
Examples of my multi-block lino prints
Multi-block print example: How Swaledale II is made.
The images below show the carved lino block, inked up block and corresponding printed layers that make up the final print. To create the print, each inked up lino block is printed on top of the previous colour.
What is a ‘Jigsaw’ linocut print?
Separate pieces of lino ‘jigsaw’ together to create one design. The jigsaw technique means that a design can be inked in multiple colours and printed in one go. The design is carved into one lino block. This is cut into separate pieces for each colour within the design. Each piece is inked up separately and the pieces reassembled like a jigsaw before laying paper on top to print the design.
This is the method I first used when I started lino printing in multiple colours.
A design can be inked in multiple colours and printed in one go.
The jigsaw pieces are liable to move in a roller or etching press. Therefore it’s a method more suited to hand-burnishing.
More suited to plastic lino as traditional lino is likely to deteriorate at the edges.
Each colour needs to be a manageable shape and size.
Each colour needs to be a separate manageable shape and size that will easily jigsaw back together.
Examples of my early lino prints
Examples of students lino prints from my workshops
What is a hand-coloured linocut print?
A design is printed in one colour and the additional colours are added by hand painting them using watercolour, inks or another painting medium such as Brusho.
The design needs to be printed in oil-based ink so that it does not bleed when the water-based colours are painted on by hand.
This is a method I first used when I started lino printing.
One lino block is carved and printed so there are no issues with registration.
The method is not suitable for printing using water-based inks.
Watercolours, inks and Brusho are not always as lightfast as printmaking inks. Check with the individual manufacturers and their colours.
The paper may buckle if large areas are hand coloured. This can be overcome by stretching the paper.
Examples of students lino prints on my beginners linocut workshops
Would you like to learn how to make a linocut print?
Online self-paced learning. Full access for one year, so that you can study at your own pace and home. Instructional videos and step-by-step guides.
Beginners guide to linocut printing
How to make a multi-block linocut print
My linocut workshops are all held in my York print studio. I teach in small groups of no more than four people, so that everyone gets lots of one to one tuition.
Introduction to linocut printing workshop
Follow on 'jigsaw' linocut printing workshop
See my linocut workshops and online courses page for links to each of my courses and workshops.
Linocut and printmaking tools and materials
Find out more about the tools and equipment needed to create linocut prints in my 'lino cutting equipment' blog.
See step-by-step how I make my linocut prints
See examples of how I make my linocut prints in the Studio Diary section of my blog.
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About the artist
Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour. Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.