Updated: Mar 31, 2022
I use the multi-block method to create my multi-coloured linocut prints. Below I've outlined each of the stages used to make Swaledale II.
Step 1 | Inspiration
I just adore Swaledale, both for cycling and walking. In April I drove over to the Dales Bike Centre to cycle through Reeth , along to Maker and Keld, then up to Tan Hill. As some restrictions were still in place, it meant hotels and B&Bs were still closed and the area was blissfully quiet.
Some of my favorite views are from the road from Thwaite and Angram. The perfect spot for lunch to the sound of curlews. This is one of the views that inspired one of my latest linocut prints, Swaledale II.
Read more about my inspiration and photos from my walks and cycle rides in the Yorkshire Dales National Park this year in my
Step 2 | Sketching design concepts
I often sketch concepts on paper as well as on my iPad. I find that sketching designs at the actual size on paper, gives me a clearer idea of what’s possible to carve in lino. I tend to have more flow and a better quality of line when I sketch in real life. It also starts to get the muscle memory going when I carve the lino. It does make a big difference on long sweeping curves.
In this instance I planned how the colours would layer up in Procreate on my iPad. I do this very roughly. I then sketched the design onto tracing paper in black pencil and used watercolours to roughly show my colouration behind.
I often work on a few designs in a series at the same time. The main reason for this is so that I can see how they’ll look as a collection but also to speed up the test printing, ink mixing and printing of the final prints. Using so many colours, means it takes a long time to clean up all the inks and rollers. Here I was working on a Malham Cove and Grassington design at the same time. Grassington is still in the ‘This is rubbish’ naughty corner!
Step 3 | Carving lino block 1
Carving lino block 1 for the barn, dry stone wall and field lines.
First I carve the key lines and barn details using a small V gouge. Once they are carved in, I can clear away the area I don't want to print.
This lino block took 90 minutes to carve. I carve for 10 mins, take a break and so on, so that I don't make a mistake.
Step 4 | Transferring the design from lino block 1 to blocks 2, 3, 4 and 5
Transferring the design from lino block 1 to blocks 2 and 3. I use the offset method to transfer the design from one block to another. This ensures each colour in the design will line up. I cover this in detail on my multi-block online course. I explain each stage through video tutorials, as well as step-by-step written instructions.
Step 5 | Carving lino block 2
Lino block 2 - the grasses in the foreground and bushes and trees in the distance.
Once the design from lino block 1 is transferred onto lino block 2, I add extra details from my main sketch.
This block took 55 minutes to carve.
Step 6 | Carving lino block 3
Carving a lino block for the green grass of the fields.
This lino block took 45 minutes to carve.
Step 7 | Carving lino block 4
Carving a lino block for the pale grey hill in the distance and the shadow across the field.
This lino block took 20 minutes to carve.
Step 8 | Carving lino block 5
Carving a lino block for the mid grey hills and secondary tone in the drystone wall.
This lino block took 40 minutes to carve.
Step 9 | All lino blocks carved
All 5 lino blocks ready for test printing. I carefully clean the ink and pencil off before inking up the blocks, being careful not to get the hessian back of the lino or backing board wet.
Step 10 | Test printing and mixing colours
I spent a long time trying out different colours and tones. I was working on 2 other designs, Malham Cove and Grassington, at the same time and wanted the designs to compliment each other. It took at least a day to get them right.
I often refer back to colours I’ve used in previous designs and use these if they work for the design.
I test print on cheap white photocopy paper to begin with. It’s whiter than the paper I use for my final prints but I’ve got to understand the change in colour I’ll have for these.
In the end I decided on two colourways, one with a sage green grass and another with a more lime toned grass.
I also made some adjustments to the lino blocks.
Step 11 | Printing colour 1
Once I’m happy with my test prints I’m ready to prepare my paper with Ternes Burton tabs which ensure each colour printed lines up. The term we use in printmaking is registered.
In printmaking you normally print light to dark. When I’m planning the printing of a design, this will vary depending on the effect I want. In this instance I wanted to print pale grey over the green to create an extra tone. Therefore I printed the green first.
I roll 4 thin layers of ink onto the block and place it into my registration device. The Ternes Burton tabs are then clicked onto the Ternes Burton pins. As I wind the handle of my printing press I allow the paper to drop onto the inked up surface of the lino block.
Step 12 | Printing colour 2
I use Hawthorn stay open oil-based inks that are semi-transparent. I make them paler by adding more transparent ink.The pale grey has a high percentage of transparent ink in it. I’ve used it to create shadows on the grass.
Inks with a lot of transparent ink in them can take a little longer to dry.
Step 13 | Printing colour 3
Inking up the block and printing with mid grey ink.
Step 14 | Printing colour 4
Inking up the block with dark green ink for the grass, trees and bushes..Then hand-printing with an etching press.
Video - Hand printing colour 4 using oil-based ink and an etching press
Step 15 | Printing colour 5
Inking up the block with charcoal grey ink for the drystone wall, barn and field lines. Then hand-printing with an etching press.
I then leave the prints to dry fully for 2 weeks before mounting or framing.
Video - Hand printing colour 5 using oil-based ink and an etching press
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. Two colourways are available.
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.
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.
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.
Let me know what you think...
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.