Project 8 – Reduction Method Linocut

A knobbly squash, which I had bought for lunch, appealed to me as a subject. A quick sketch was later converted into a gouache painting in three colours to explore how the tone might be interpreted into three layers and to use brush strokes to simulate cutting marks in lino. I decided to crop the image on the right so that the stalk was not placed so centrally.

P1040026 P1040070

To transfer the image to lino, I photocopied by painting, backed it with copy paper and taped this to my block. I made registration marks on the paper and sides of the block so that I could repeat the process for subsequent layers. I selected lino because one can flick the lino out to leave  rougher shapes, allowing for more organic marks.

Photocopy, layered with copy paper, taped to lino

Photocopy, layered with copy paper, taped to lino

Registration marks

Registration marks

Lightest areas marked for cutting

Lightest areas marked for cutting

Lightest areas blocked out for cutting to avoid confusion

Lightest areas blocked out for cutting to avoid confusion

To print, I:

  • chose my papers, in white, cream and Khadi
  • made a registration frame out of card
  • tried out colour combinations in my sketchbook, although watercolour doesn’t really translate into ink
  • decided to attempt three reductions; four layers
  • printed about 12 first layer prints on three different papers to allow for spoilage and possible subsequent colour combinations
  • one layer was printed each week, to allow the ink to dry
  • used Hawthorn Stay Open inks
  • a press was used
  • a decision on the next colour was reviewed at each  layer and tried out on a test print


    Experimenting with colours for the third layer

  • the final layer was in black, for the very deepest shadows
  • my cutting for the first two layers followed my drawing, but for the final layers, I used a print and developed that with pen or pencil.

Hung up to dry after the third layer.

After three layers

After three layers

After four layers

After four layers, yellow, green, blue, black


yellow, turquoise, brown, black


yellow, turquoise, blue, black


  • a graphic image
  • wide tonal range
  • the texture of the squash comes through
  • all colour ways worked well, although I particularly like the blue/turq/yellow mix
  • the cream coloured paper (local industrial waste) worked well and includes a Croxley watermark (Croxley is a local water meadow where mills traditionally made paper)
  • I find reduction linocut much easier to get my head around than multiplate lino.


  • four weeks to do the series; I rather hated it by the end
  • suicide method, if you make a mistake cutting, all is lost
  • limited opportunities to experiment with colour combinations
  • my prints on Khadi paper didn’t work because I chose the wrong registration method for the paper with decal edges; I should have used blocks here
  • I think I cut away too much in the reflected highlight, bottom left
  • some of the cutting marks are too uniform and reflect the shape of the cutter too much rather than the shape of the squash
  • my last but one layer was a bit too dark leaving me nowhere much to go with my final layer
  • my later layers didn’t stick very well over my earlier ones leaving a mottled texture; perhaps the ink was too slack in the earlier layers, but actually the texture can add interest.

Developments/thoughts for future such projects:

  • print over different coloured papers or flat printed backgrounds to give more colour variations
  • use stiffer ink
  • gain extra mileage from my plate by printing intermediate layers over chine colle
  • manage steps in tone carefully, think about tone and colour at each step.

About starrybird

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts. My passion is printmaking.
This entry was posted in Part 3 Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints, Printmaking 1, Project 8 Reduction Method Linocut and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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