I use the multi-block method to create my multi-coloured linocut prints. Below I've outlined each of the stages used to make Langdale Pikes.
Video - Making Langdale Pikes - 5-colour multi-block lino print
This video was created for The Great Print Exhibition at the Rheged Centre. It shows the process of making Langdale Pikes lino print from start to finish.
Step 1 | Inspiration
The inspiration for this print came from a week walking and camping at the National Trust’s Great Langdale Campsite in the Lake District. I’ve popped an arrow on one of my photos of roughly where I was.
After I’d pitched my tent, settled in and made dinner I made the most of the longer evening. Walking directly out of the back of the campsite takes you up to Blea Tarn. The reflections of Langdale Pikes in the still waters of the Blea Tarn were perfect.
In my photos, the details of Langdale Pikes were quite hazzy. I did a shout out on Twitter and a follower, Nick, kindly let me use one of his photos as reference.
Step 2 | Sketching design concepts
This print was going to be a challenge for me. How would I create water in a pared down palette and silhouettes? Apart from my Ennerdale Water lino print, I’ve only created water for seascapes. In those I’ve used carved lines of the waves to add interest. Using a single bold colour is effective. The Lakes are different.
To begin, I sketched ideas on Procreate on my iPad so that I could just think about what I wanted the print to look like in terms of blocks of colour and not get too tied up in knots about how on earth I was going to make it. I paint onto a separate layer for each colour so that I can separate them out in Photoshop to make a rough plan.
At this stage I wasn't entirely sure how it would work. I use Hawthorn’s stay open oil-based inks. They’re semi transparent and I use a transparent pigment to make them paler, rather than white. This maintains the transparency. In fact, the paler a colour is, the more transparent it is. I wanted to use this to layer colours over the water, without them looking flat and solid.
Once I was at a point of having a rough plan, I sketched the design onto paper. I prefer to draw directly as I get more of a sense of what marks are achievable at the scale I’ll be carving my lino in.
I cut five pieces of lino and mounted them to backing boards.
Step 3 | Carving lino block 1
The first block is for the Langdale Pike mountains in the background. I wanted to bring them to life and be a prominent feature in the print, by carving out the details of the rocks, so that they would be the colour of the paper.
The reflection of the Pikes in Blea Tarn was something that I didn’t think would work but worth having a go at. After all, I didn’t know how else to do it.
Step 4 | Carving lino block 2, 3 and 4
Not the most exciting lino blocks! But I was hoping that the layering of colours and details of the other carved blocks would balance them out.
Step 5 | Carving lino block 5
The fifth lino block is for the larch trees reflecting in Blea Tarn and the rocks in the middle ground. I really wasn’t sure how this would work at all. If they were too heavy and solid they would fight with the rest of the print. I started off loosely painting the trees in ink to get a feel from them. If there's something I’m not sure about, I carve them into a scrap of lino first to see if they work. I’ll then carve the block. In this instance I used this block to create my first set of test prints. On reflection I decided they looked a little too solid and too much like toilet brushes! So I played with ideas again and carved the lino block again.
Step 6 | All lino blocks carved
My messy desk with all 5 lino blocks before test printing and making any adjustments.
I clean all the ink and pen off as much as I can before printing them.
Step 7 | Test printing and mixing colours
I spent over a day playing with colours and test printing. It’s all quite rough and I print wet on wet ink for speed. It gives me an idea of what will work.
It’s rare that I like a print first off. I usually walk away for a few days or weeks and have to let it settle.
I didn’t imagine for one minute that this would be a print that would work straight away. Especially with the layers of colours and the reflections I was experimenting with. It did! Happy dance!!!!!!
Step 8 | Printing colour 1
For each block to be printed I then mix up a small batch of colour. If I’m working on a series of prints I’ll often use similar or the same colours in each lino print. As this was the first in a new Lakes District series, I was starting with mainly a fresh palette of colours.
I record the recipe in my colour book and keep any spare ink in a numbered pot. The great thing about the oil-based inks that I use is that they do keep in pots.
Firstly I printed the steely blue for the water.
Step 9 | Printing colour 2
Next I printed the mid green for the grass. Over printing the green over the blue water gave me a secondary tone for the reflection in the water.
Step 10 | Printing colour 3
The next colour is a darker green for other tones in the hills. Again I’ve over printed this over the water to create secondary tones.
At this stage it’s important to leave the above 3 layers to dry before printing the next layer. With lots of transparency in the ink and the layers build up, the prints take longer to dry.
Step 11 | Printing colour 4
The Langdale Pike mountains are printed in a deep steel blue and I’ve used a paler tone for the reflections in the water.
Step 12 | Printing colour 5
The final colour to print is for the trees and rocks. If I’d used an opaque ink the trees would have looked very flat. Although the charcoal grey is only slightly transparent, it gives a depth and colour variation to the finished print. I applied less ink to some areas, than to others. Tricky to do.
Step 16 | The finished linocut print
Hand-printed using 5 hand-carved lino blocks and oil-based inks.
Limited edition linocut print.
Varied edition of 60.
Image size 160 x 160mm
Mount aperture 190 x 190mm
Mount outer 305 x 305mm
The first few prints are available in my online shop.
Would you like to learn how to make a linocut print using this multi-block technique?
How to make a multi-block linocut print
Learn how to make a two and three-colour linocut print at home, using the multi-block technique.
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Instructional videos and step-by-step guides.
If you're a complete beginner, see my Beginners Guide to Linocut Printing online course or my Introduction to Linocut Printing workshop.
See my linocut workshops and online courses page for links to each of my courses and workshops.
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About the author
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 linocut 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.