Monday, November 25, 2013

Composition and Layout.

When you are making decisions about the layout and composition of your linocut, you need to think about:
  • solid or textured areas vs the background of the paper
  • the line technique you will use
  • the shape of your subject matter.
Christmas Tree Mice
The composition of the christmas card above is one I am very pleased with for the following reasons.

Solid or textured areas vs the background of the paper:  There is a good balance between the blank areas of the paper, the solid green of the christmas tree, and textured areas of the mice, woven through by the detailed snowflakes.

The line technique you will use:  A range of line techniques have been used.  All the mice have been outlined using the 'double line' technique.  Both the tree and the snowflakes have been cut out very simply, using a single line.

The shape of your subject matter:  In composing this linocut, I made sure each of the mice were in different poses and carrying out different activities.  The snowflake chain loops round the tree, making the tree more 3D, but also serves to link up the 4 mice.  The traingular shape of the tree is pleasing to the eye and provides the perfect backdrop to the mice.

If you would like to buy this print, have a look at:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chine de Colle Technique

Chine de Colle is a technique which involves sandwiching coloured paper between the ink and the paper on which you’re printing.  My students have experimented with this technique much more than I have, so with their permission, I will be making reference to their prints.
Below, you can see Sophie’s design of her cat Milo.  Making his eyes yellow brings life and energy to the print. 
Karen also makes extensive use of the Chine de Colle design.  She had the brilliant idea of using cut outs from magazines to provide not only colour but texture to her prints.  In the print below, she has kept the lines of her linocut  very light and delicate; and used a cut out of flowers from a magazine to emphasise the body of the bird and imitate its feathers. 

Jennifer created a lovely series of butterfly cards using the chine de colle technique.  Here she has used origami paper for the wings, creating a beautiful image, with the patterned orange wings contrasting perfectly with the deep blue of the ink.

Ruthie, a 10 year old linocutter, has experimented very successfully with this technique.  She created a linocut of a sheep with a large ‘blank’ area in the middle.  She then used origami paper to produce a multi coloured herd of sheep,  which have a real impact when framed together.
Here’s how to do it.
1.  Use a draft print of the linocut to produce a template for the area you want to be covered with coloured paper.  In this case it is the body of the sheep.  Cut out the piece of paper to the shape required.  Patterned paper works better if your linocut is quite simple.  Plain coloured paper works well in drawing attention to a particular part of the linocut.
2.  Ink up your linocut. 
3.  Place the coloured paper front side down onto the inked up lino.  Being careful not to shift the paper, put a few dots of glue on the back.
4.  Put the paper you are printing onto over the linocut and transfer the print as usual, either using a press or by burnishing it.  Carefully life the paper off the linocut.

 If you are interested in doing a workshop with Three Bears Prints, have a look at :

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to Make a Linocut

This post will give you instructions on how to make a linocut - I'll show you step by step how I produced my 'Rabbits at Home' linocut.   Happy linocutting!

Rabbit Linocut

1.     Sketch out your design.  Take into account practical matters, such as the dimensions of your paper – the rabbits, for example, are standard postcard size.  Be mindful of contrasting black and white areas, and textured versus plain areas.  Try to achieve a good balance between these.
2. Tracing. Trace your design using a dark pencil.

3. Transfer your design. Turn the tracing paper over and place it onto your lino. Tape your lino into place with masking tape to ensure nothing shifts while you’re transferring it. If it shifts, you will never be able to match it up again.

4. Highlight your Design. Go over your pencil lines with a waterproof marker such as a ‘Sharpie’ marker.

5. How to Cut. The important thing to remember is that that the areas your remove from the lino will not print. What you leave behind will be printed up. This means that you have to think in reverse. Be very careful not to over-cut and remove too much lino. This makes it flat and uninteresting. Also, avoid cutting through any important inter-connecting lines. On the finished print, you’ll see that I accidentally cut off one of the sleeping rabbit’s ears where it joins onto the head!

6.  Cut out your Design.  Cut out the main subject first.  Carefully go round the outside and inside lines of the design first.  Then cut out the inner part, creating texture and contrast as you go.  Use small tools on detailed areas, larger tools to clear large parts.

7.  Check your Progress.  One useful way of checking your progress is to use a bingo marker.  Colour the area you have just been cutting, lay a scrap sheet of paper on top, and take rubbing with an old spoon or your fist.

8.  Prepare your Inks.  With your design cut out, you’re now ready to print!  Prepare your inks.  Make sure you have enough of the colour you are using for the size of your print run.  Roll out a thin film of ink.

9.  Ink up your lino.  Roll the roller through the film of ink one way until it is loaded with ink.  Roll it onto the lino one way.  Make sure the lino has a thin sticky film of ink all over it.

10. Print your Linocut.  If using a press:  slot your lino into place on a registration board.  Carefully lay your paper over the lino.  Place packing materials (such as newspaper and card) on top and roll the press over.  You may need to experiment until you get the pressure correct.  If hand-printing:  slot your lino into place on a registration board and carefully lay your paper over the lino.  Burnish it by rubbing the back of the paper with a spoon.

11. The Great Reveal.  It’s time for the great reveal!  Slowly lift the paper up from one corner.  If the ink is patchy, carefully replace the paper and have another go with the press/spoon.

12. Blot Print.  Using tissue or scrap paper, blot the print to remove any excess ink.  Hang it up to dry.  Edition your prints.  If you print 10, number each one as being a series of 10 – e.g. 1/10, 2/10…10/10.

13. THE FINISHED PRINT!  Ta da .....

Finished 'Rabbits at Home' linocut

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tour of my Tool Kit

My tool kit is brilliant!  It was a gift from Mum and Dad is one of the best presents I've ever been given.  It was made by Scott Exeley Leathers out at Arthurstone near Meigle.  It's very cleverly designed, with a slot for each tool, and rolls up neatly.  It protects my tools, and when each slot is full, I am confident I have everything with me I need to create a linocut.

You can buy a very cheap lino cutting handle and individual tool heads you can screw into the handle - such as the red handled tool below.  However, I would strongly recommend buying 'Swiss cutting tools' - the wooden handled tools below - available from Intaglio Printmakers.  I have been amazed at the range of cuts you can make every time I’ve bought a new tool.It’s very true that a crafts person is only as good as their tools.

Once you’ve bought your tools, you also need to buy a leather strop and some honing paste to keep your tools sharp.  It’s really important to sharpen your tools every time before you start cutting and about once an hour while you’re creating your lino cut.

I keep other equipment in my tool kit - tools for cutting, and pencils and pens for laying out the designs.


If you're interested in doing a workshop or seeing my prints, have a look at or

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Double Line Technique

You can also use what I call the ‘double line’ technique. This is where you use your tool to draw an inner outline to a shape. This helps to delineate and emphasise the features and structure of the shape. 

In a Christmas card I produced of Max, our black Patterdale terrier, you can see the use of this technique clearly .  Below is the both the linocut and a print of the whole card.

Linocut of Christmas Patterdale card
Print of Linocut of Christmas Patterdale
Let's take a closer look at the double line technique by focusing on the panel of Max and Santa looking at each other.  On the right, you can see how this linocut would have looked if I’d just used a single line to render his features.  To me this version looks flat, boring and too simple.  The version on the left is much more clearly delineated.

The same panel, but comparing the use of the single and 'double line' technique.
This is an especially useful technique as it means you can add detail and shape to an otherwise solid coloured area. You need to be aware of the overall, outer shape of the area and the inner shapes which you need to outline which make up this area.

Fragmented Santa!  The continuous line around his body has been broken up.
Make sure your inner lines do not breach your outer line at all.  Keep them at least 1-2mm away from the edge of the shape.  If you take them right to the edge, you will fragment your linocut into little bits, and you will lose the sense and structure of what you are trying to illustrate. Look at Santa above - I've extended all the internal lines and broken through his outline. This has separated the different parts of his body and they now appear to be floating about!

Like to see some Christmas Art Prints for sale?  Have a look at: