Reduction Linocuts

There are many ways to make colourful prints but one of my favourite is reduction linocuts. It is a method of relief printmaking where you only use one plate to make all the colour plates for your print. They are sometimes referred to as ‘suicide‘ prints. If you want to learn about printmaking then this is a great second step because:

  1. Colourful prints are beautiful!
  2. You will learn about registration.
  3. You will see how inks interact with other.
  4. There are ample opportunities to learn to deal with frustration.
  5. You’ll find out how many colours you can pile up on one bit of paper.
  6. You could discover that failure is OK because it’s a great teacher.
  7. You will challenge yourself and grow.
  8. It is likely you will get a great sense of achievement even if your linocut print isn’t perfect!
  9. All your friends will be very impressed with your skills (maybe…).

Having gotten my hands on a new etching press, I decided to push the limits of my knowledge and experience. I wanted to open up new possibilities with printmaking! Previously I had used a baren or a wooden spoon to press my woodcuts and linocuts. This process is great when you’re printing one colour or using thin paper. The fun disappears when trying to print a nine colour artwork on 300gsm paper in an edition of 10! Unless of course you’re Hercules, Susan Strong or Conan the barbarian.


The Process: Creating a Reduction Linocut

Pictured below is my print ‘We’re so Pretty’. It is officially a 9 colour reduction linocut but in reality it is 12 as I overprinted some of the colours. I really do not like this picture but it was an interesting learning experience. I did make a whole bunch of ‘rookie’ mistakes. I used water based ink and damp paper! It seemed like the right thing to do because the paper was rough and I couldn’t get a good impression. I have since discovered using smooth paper works much better when relief printing.


'We're so Pretty' Final Image

‘We’re so Pretty’ Final Image


The source image for this linocut came from a selfie. I had run it through various photo filters on my phone and made a picture I liked. This then went into Photoshop and got worked until I had a template I could work with.
A copy got printed by my trusty laser printed and with the help of a graphite sheet, it got traced onto the lino. My excitement grew and I believed that the fun was just beginning’.


Lino plate with image drawn on ready for carving

Lino plate with image drawn on ready for carving

Begin to Reduce the Linoleum

A good lesson for the beginner printmaker is to start with the lightest colour first. Mine was white so I cut away those sections and applied the yellow ink to the plate. This was the second colour but the first that required ink.

With the first ink layer colour done, the lino gets cleaned and dried. Using my trusty cutting tools I work away the parts I want to keep this colour. This gets followed with another colour through the press. A process which is repeated with increasingly darker colours ending with the black (usually).


Notes on Reduction Linocuts

Some of the colours I diluted with a clear extender which can increase the transparency of the ink.
So that’s reduction linocuts. You can also use this method with woodcuts. Try it out!
In the future I will be running workshops on reduction linocuts. If you’re interested in joining in, sign up to the newsletter and follow Plump Art Studio on Facebook
How to make reduction linocuts. Learn Printmaking
Article by:

Marcus F. Napieraj

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