05 Jan

Experiments with Block Printing

I’ve been slowly working out how to tackle the idea of creating custom printed paper to use in my cut paper work going forward. I don’t have the facilities available in my home studio to do screen printing because it’s messy, needs space to print and dry, and plenty of water to wash screens. I’ve considered having paper printed for me based on my designs, but I’m such a hands-on person I really want to do this myself. Looking into other printing methods has led me to explore block printing, and this week I carved and printed my first block.

I bought a starter kit from Opus just before the holidays to get me started. It contains the basics tools of a lino cutting tool with three blades, a tube of ink, one soft rubber block, and a small brayer.

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I drew a relatively simple design directly on the block using pencil rather transferring from a sketch, and started carving. As I worked I realized my design could have been even simpler for my first try because there were some small details that were challenging to work around, and way too many curves. The process is similar enough to carving paper with a knife that it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I made use of all three sizes of blades as I worked.

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I used the finished block to print white ink (from an ink pad) onto a piece of black card stock. I did an initial printing to check the design and then re-carved a few spots that needed fixing. I think next time I need to carve more deeply.

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I finished my little experiment by doing a quick paper cut from the printed material to see how the different colours would interact with the design. It was only then I thought about my choice to work in black and white when the main purpose of printing is to bring more colour into my work. Ha!

© Rachael Ashe