Illustrator and lino-printmaker Nick Hayes and the man known as Linocut Boy, Nick Morley, talk us through the process, from picture to print…
Drawing the image
“With lino prints, the whole image is reversed,” says Nick Hayes. “So I draw the image as if it were the final product, scan it, open it in InDesign, flip it horizontally, print that out and then used that to trace the image onto the lino.”
“I work up the image on paper first, drawing with a Japanese brush pen, which gives you a nice tapered line,” says Nick Morley. “The brush pen sort of mimics the way I carve, so I can work out the textures, marks and patterns beforehand on paper. Then I transfer that image to the lino, using special Japanese red carving paper.”
Cutting the image
“Every mark you make on lino is the white space on the print – the absence of a mark,” says Nick Hayes. “You carve the lino out with V or U-pointed knives. You don’t want to make your cuts too deep, in case the surface starts to tear or move.”
“I use Pfeil gouges,” says Nick Morley. “They’ve got a mushroom-shaped handle and you have to keep them very sharp. A lot of the cheap tools are so blunt that it’s actually counterproductive – you won’t get a clean line and you’ll also probably cut yourself because you’re pushing so hard.”
Inking the lino
“With inking, there’s a certain amount of trial and error,” says Nick Morley. “So I’ll make proofs and adjust the registration until it’s perfect. I use Caligo Safe Wash relief ink. They print like oil-based ink but wash off with soap and water.
“To ink up, I’ve got an old glass shower divider. I put the ink out on that, mix the colours with a spatula and then roll it out until the roller is evenly covered in ink. Then you apply it to the lino with the roller.
“I like to use a battleship-grey lino with a hessian backing. It’s a very traditional lino, made of linseed oil, cork dust and resin. Also, if you under-ink it you can get a lovely texture.”
Pressing the image
“I use an Albion press, which just pushes with a great weight, down onto the paper,” says Nick Hayes. “There’s a roller press, which pushes the print through like a mangle, but they can slip a tiny bit and they take a little bit more time.”
“I use an etching press at the moment,” says Nick Morley. “It’s brilliant because you get a nice pressure, but it does stretch the lino and the paper a bit as it goes through. If I’m doing something very small, I handprint with a wooden spoon.”
In Focus: Linocut Boy’s top tips for lino printing:
If you make a mistake, take a deep breath and remember that mistakes are good. Japanese woodcut masters would put a deliberate mistake into their work to prove that it was made by a real person.
Always carve away from your hand so, if you do slip, you don’t cut yourself.
Play around with mark making. Try different tools and textures so you’re not just making linear work.
Just keep practising. Lino printing is easy to learn, you can do it at home, it’s not expensive and you can do amazing things with it.
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To see more of Nick Hayes’ work, check out his website.
To see more of Nick Morley’s work, and to buy your own lino-printing kit, check out his blog.
Images: Top, Deep Sea Diver by Nick Morley, Beacons lino cut by Nick Hayes, Deep Sea Diver in progress by Nick Morley, rollers and gouges by Nick Morley.