Reduction Prints

One of the techniques I learnt on my course which I really enjoyed was reduction printing – a method which allows you to add layers of colour and depth to your final print. The separate colours are printed from the same block, but at different stages of the carving. I’ll use this fish to illustrate what I mean…..


Our tutor challenged us to come up with a finished reduction print in the space of one session. I began by carving out the first stage of my design, which looks quite basic at this  stage. Usually it’s best to print your lightest colour first, but my son loves orange so my first print came out like this:


At this stage you need to remember that whatever is white on your print now will remain white on the next layer. Whatever you carve out now will appear in the background colour (in this case orange). I found it a bit tricky to get my head round at first so I used a simple design as a tester. The next stage was to carve out another layer of detail from the same block of lino, thereby ‘reducing’ the block. This left me with this design:


Then it’s time to ink it up with a different colour, usually darker than your first layer. But  in this case we went for green. The end result was pretty cool though as I didn’t realise that orange and green together would make brown, as we can see here:


At this point there was nothing left but to pose and look smug with my finished print 😉


I really enjoyed this method of printing, it’s a bit of a puzzle working out what colour combinations you will end up with. I liked it so much I tried a dragon design at home. The first layer was slightly more complicated than my original fish design from the course.

The next stage was to ink up and print out the first layer. I did quite a few different colour combinations as I wasn’t sure what would work. And once you’ve carved out the second layer of detail there’s no going back to your original design!



One of the best things about lino printing is that it’s so accessible you can do it at home. There’s no need for any specialist equipment and you can dry your prints by just hanging them on a line. The next step was to reduce the block and carve out the next layer of detail. This got a bit fiddly!


Then it’s time to repeat the process – ink it up and print it on top of the prints you have just made (although it’s better to leave them to dry properly first!)

I was using a pre-cut piece of A4 as a template to line up and register my two layers correctly. Otherwise I’d get a blurry effect if they didn’t match exactly. I was pretty happy with some of my finished designs, and it was useful to see which colour combinations do and don’t work.


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