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Linocut tutorial – how to print a colour blend

I’ve been printing my Hungry Fish linocut which has a colour blend, or colour gradation, on one of the blocks. This is a very simple printing technique where two or more colours are blended on the ink roller resulting in a striking effect which can be used in a number of ways.

Hungry Fish linocut with colour blend

I’ve put together a mini tutorial below showing the steps in inking and printing the blocks. Hungry Fish is a two block print and you will also see my method for registering the blocks using a registration sheet.

The first step is to squeeze out your ink – in this case just two colours – onto your inking surface so they are the same distance apart as the width of your roller. I’m trying my new Caligo water-washable inks from Intaglio Printmaker (pthalo blue and process yellow in case you’re interested)

The next step is to pull some ink down with the roller and start rolling it out below the ink blobs:

As you roll the colours will gradually move together and start to blend. To speed this process up you can move the roller slightly to the left and right on alternate rolls.

As you keep rolling the colours will blend more and more. Once you are happy with the blend just roll over the same spot to stop it spreading further. You are now ready to ink up your block:

You must be very careful to get everything the right way round! Re-ink the roller in between rolls to avoid off-setting areas of the image back onto the block.

To register the two blocks I made a template out of clear plastic and drew round the blocks where I want them to go. A lot of my blocks are irregular shapes so it’s easy to see where they have to go (and avoid putting them down upside-down).

To lower the paper onto the block I hold it down with two fingers of my left hand, making sure it’s aligned with the template. I then lower it onto the block with my other hand.

After rolling it through the press I hold the paper in the same way to lift it so as to avoid smudging:

I usually print the second block straight away but if the ink is very thick or you are having problems you will have to leave it to dry first. I inked up the second block in two colours, using a small roller for the little red fish. This is the fiddly bit:

The black ink was applied with a third roller, going around the little fish and being careful not to let it touch the red ink:

This block was then printed using the same registration method:

Once you get in the swing it is quite quick to print lots of images this size. I did about 30 in an hour or two. Here they are on my lovely new printing rack. If you want to buy a Hungry Fish they are available from my Etsy shop!