2.2 Single colour linocut

The purpose of this exercise is to work through the process of planning, cutting and printing a single colour image.

Key words from the brief:

  • Look around you for inspiration.
  • First make a few sketches of ideas
  • A confident balance between light and dark areas and a variety of cutting
  • You should number your prints in order as you take them

I created three prints for this exercise.

Linocut 1 – Approach

I wanted to give myself a brief that would provide inspiration and direction for the exercises in Introducing relief printing. This came from an Instagram post:

The inspiration for the ‘lost and found’ theme

The lonely glove immediately suggested a narrative. One cold a sodden glove in the middle of a park, and someone with a cold hand feeling grumpy.

This sparked off a whole set of thoughts and ideas and played into an area of visual storytelling I’m interested in exploring.


Cutting the lino


The printing was done at Kew Studio using the large press. I invested in a pack of Somerset White Satin paper from Intaglio; I liked the cream coloured paper that I used for the test cuts because it gives a warmer/gentler result.

The final print…

Girl and four leafed clover
Lucky find  – Image size 25cm x 30cm

Lessons from the first linoprint printing session using the large press at Kew Studio

Press set-up instructions

  • Set the press bed up with wooden spacers to prevent the lino from getting crushed.
  • Raise the print roller just above the orange marker:

Press set-up for lino

  • Replace the blankets with the roll of lino when running the print through the press.
  • Extra care necessary to keep all surfaces clean to prevent unwanted fingermarks and/or smudges.


  • It took a more generous inking to get a good solid black than I thought. I used Intaglio Relief Ink which was suggested by the helpful staff at Intaglio. Note: I decided to use Extender to make the ink slight more pliable during the second print session, and this seemed to make the ink application easier.
  • It took a few prints to get the feel of what good coverage looked like. I had to check that all areas of the linocut, particularly the edges, were ‘wet’.


  • Registration for a single colour was similar to etching and monoprints. I used a thin perspex sheet to mark out the edges of the lino block and the edges of the pre-cut paper.

Linocut 2 – Approach

My second linocut was inspired by the work of Angus Bryan (see the Pinterest research board below), and the results of the third test print from the first exercise.

St Nicholas’ Church in Pyrford which is the subject for this print is something I’ve returned to on a number of occasions; it was the subject for my first ever exercise on Illustration 1 and resulted in the gouache painting below.

I also used it as subject matter for a drypoint print cut from clear perspex and printed on the small press in Kew Studio.


Cutting the lino

Part way through the cutting process I decided to print a proof to understand how the balance between the darker foreground, light mid-ground and sky was working. I found it hard to visualise this accurately.

I made the test print at home (not using a press), using a standard white A3 cartridge paper.

St Nicholas Church proof
Artists Proof

I was really helpful to take the proof because I was able to clearly gauge areas that needed further work; the sky wasn’t working and the foreground needed adjustment.


The printing was completed in a single 4-hour session and resulted in an edition of ten. It took three prints before I got the pressure and ink application correct. After that it was a fairly mechanical process being careful to keep all surfaces as ink free and clean as possible.

I bought a pack of Fabriano Unica 50% cotton paper which I cut down to a specific size to match the print area. I printed on the more textured side of the paper.

The final print…

St Nicholas Church FINAL
St. Nicholas’ Church. Image size: 25cm x 30cm


Linocut 3 – Approch

My third print was a response to a call for entries into a Visual Poetry Exhibition.

IMG_4480 2

This piece of work was a collaboration between Lucy Hadfield and myself. We’ve collaborated previously on An Unknown Intimacy, where Lucy wrote the words that I did the illustration. This was similar in a way, although rather than illustrating a comic strip, this was working with a poem; a much more fluid and abstract subject.

Lucy gave me three poems to work with. The one I selected was chosen because I found it a moving and thought provoking piece with lots of visual references, which became my starting point.

I jotted down ideas in my sketchbook and thumbnailed different options.

The challenge I gave myself was to answer the question, ‘How can what I do add to the readers/viewers experience without getting in the way’.

I wanted the text to have a slightly awkward feel and thought that cutting the letters out of lino in reverse would achieve that. I wanted to combine this rather ridgid lettering with the much more fluid and expressive nature of monoprint.

The transparent colour was achieved using liquid watercolour on top of the oil based ink. So it dried on top of the ink in an interesting way.

The final print:

Lucy Hadfield - poem
Poem written by Lucy Hadfield. Linoprint, monoprint and liquid watercolour. Size 50cm x 70cm.

At the time of writing, the print has been selected for exhibition.

Research point

Find a couple of contemporary printmakers whose work you like, and reflect on their techniques. How do they use lino? What sort of marks do they make? What could you learn from them?


What do you have to take into account in order to create a strong single-colour design?

  • The process to create a strong single colour is reductive; reducing the detail in an image down to it’s essential characteristics.
  • Select interesting subjects.
  • Choose marks carefully and using strong simple shapes.
  • Composition needs to be simple with strong key lines and strength of line helping to create a visual hierarchy. Many of the linocuts I’ve researched have mian subjects that are either distorted, oversized or organised in the image to appear close up to provide the viewer with a clear focus.
  • Inventive mark making and use of texture are visually interesting can be used as devices to support the composition.
  • The artist needs to be very selective about how to represent mid tones. This is very similar to the process of inking in a single colour panel in a comic although cutting shapes into lino is more limiting than filling a picture using pen and ink.
  • Work with the qualities of the cutting tools and the effects they are naturally best at achieving. I think this allows the printmaker to be more expressive and for the final pictures to appear to be more inventive; and this is one of the qualities that makes me engage more with a print.

Can you find suitable new drawing techniques which translate into a linocut that have not been included already?

  • I really liked drawing direct onto the lino using Sharpies and thick marker pens. This forces me to cut out all but essential detail and get a feel for working with a strong single colour.
  • The process reductive of working in black and white reminds me of the lessons learned creating a ‘graphic’ image in the Using black and white exercise in Illustration 1. Looking back it’s interesting that I used linocuts as research material.


What went well

I think the print of St. Nicholas’ Church is successful because it uses the strengths of the tools to make marks and textures. It meets the objectives I set for myself which were:

  • Make an image that uses the expressive power and mark making and drama available in linocut
  • Inventive texture, strong blacks, deep shadows, stormy expressive backdrop.
  • Work with the medium, not fight with it.

I like the distortion of the image and I think the composition is strong.

Once I’d figured out the best consistency and application of ink, the print process using a press was relatively straightforward and quick.

What would I differently/better

  • The idea behind the print of the girl is weak. Carrying out the end-to-end process was a valuable learning experience, but the the final print lacks substance.
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