Episode II: Linoleum Printmaking – After the idea

Pencil Drawing on Linoleum

Earlier this week, I began work on my first linoleum print in nearly a year. Having the idea and the materials is just the first part, now the drawing, carving and inking begins.

I’ve decided to do a reduction print. This means that I’ll cut out only part of the matrix (linoleum), print the lightest color, then cut out what I want to stay that color. I’ll repeat this process until all I have is the black outline. The upside to this process is that I’ll be making a limited edition run on the color prints. The downside is that I’ll be making a limited edition run on the color prints. Once I’ve cut away the various colors, I will only be able to print the image with one type of ink.

First, the drawing has to be put on the linoleum. That is done in pencil so that mistakes can be erased. After the pencil drawing is completed, I then use a Sharpie to go over the lines, and make which parts will be left solid at the end of the printmaking process. I have found that a Sharpie will allow the lines to be visible to make the reduction print easier to complete since I’ll be able to see the lines that I want to keep for the final product. To show a value change with this medium, I have to use hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling. These techniques also provide a variety of lines to make the artwork more interesting.

Drawing post Sharpie treatment

Once I’ve gotten all of my line work completed, I can now begin cutting away all the parts I want to remain white. I try to cut the linoleum in the directions I want to viewers eye to move. This is in case some “noise” occurs. “Noise” is when ink gets on the ridges left after cutting and appear on the paper. This isn’t something you always want to get rid of because it gives a nice effect, but you want the “noise” lines to serve the same purpose as the lines you’ve decided to keep – variety and direction(s) for the viewer to follow across the artwork.

Cut Linoleum, ready for first color

I can now ink the matrix with the lightest color I will be using. I could always hand color the image, of course, but that has a different look than printed ink. It’s not a bad look, and if you are afraid of how your registration will line up (making sure each time you print, everything prints in the correct space) I do recommend hand coloring. This can be done with ink, as if you are painting, acrylic paint, and even color pencils. You just have to be careful because the paper you’ll be printing on is usually really absorbent, so think applications of color will soak though. Below are some pictures of the process so far.

Tomorrow, I’ll ink the first few colors on – but that depends entirely on how fast the ink dries. Hope you are enjoying the process, I know I am!

Now, I’m off to karate class and then the Captain America midnight show.

Detail of first cuts

Outline cuts before using large gouges

V and U gouges used to cut large areas of linoleum

Linoleum Printmaking – From the Beginning


For my next project, I had every intention of working on a painting. I’ve been working on a lot of paintings lately, and it just seemed right to continue on this same course of action. Still, since working on this blog, I’ve had so many ideas and so many things I’ve wanted to do that it just seems right to go back to what I enjoy doing most: printmaking!

Printmaking incorporates the things I like about drawing and painting: line work and color theory. I freely admit, my line work can always use work and my color theory (use of color in an artwork) is sometimes screwy, but I love it! Every time I draw or add color to a work, I learn something new that I can share with others (mainly my students).

While a lot of artists use wood, copper plates, or stone for their prints, I prefer linoleum. It’s affordable, water-soluble inks can work with it, and it can be used in a classroom. Those were the criteria I used when I first chose this medium (what the artwork is created with/from) as a Master’s student at Morehead State University. I was first introduced to printmaking though at the University of Kentucky where I took a woodcut class taught by Derrick Riley (great instructor, fantastic artist!). The same skills are used in both, but I found the linoleum to be easier to work with and just more fun over all.

For this next project, I wanted to go through step by step in my process for those of you interested in creating your own prints. I will be using golden linoleum which is a little easier to carve than battleship linoleum – typically used in a classroom because its cheaper, a Speedball lino cutter, and water-soluble inks. Before any of the tools can be used though, I have to decide on a subject. I will be using the characters shown above from my earlier painting sketches (seen in previous blogs) and I’ve set them watching fireworks. I still haven’t decided whether or not to do this as a reduction print, but I’ll decide by the next time I post.

Linoleum (prior to re-sizing) and Speedball cutter w/ gouges