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.


Pizza Prints!

The great thing about the printmaking course I attended was the fact my little boy could get involved too. Obviously the equipment involved in lino cut prints is unsuitable for children, but our tutor suggested a great child-friendly alternative – poly block. All you need to do is press on hard with a pencil to create your design.

Beck really enjoyed creating his design (and remembered he needed to write his name backwards!) but of course the fun bit is getting messy with the ink rollers! Once he created his first print there was no stopping him.

The following week we had an amazing brainwave – the polystyrene backing from pizzas could also be used to create the print design on. Hence, the invention of pizza prints!

It was really cool seeing how much he enjoyed the process and it’s unusual to see round shaped prints too. And of course there’s the added bonus that you art material comes with a free pizza! Pizza Tuesday became our weekly tradition so we had a new polystyrene disc for the following week.

The following week we had great weather and were able to have our class outdoors. It was so nice having a couple of hours set aside in the week to be able to focus on creating new designs, chatting with likeminded people, and helping Beck learn some new skills.

It’s testament to what an accessible art form this is that a 5 year old can get involved and pick up the basics quickly. There’s no specialist equipment needed and the immediacy of creating your finished print is really satisfying. Here he is burnishing his print with a wooden spoon just before the big reveal.

Beck went for an African inspired design for his final design of the class and managed to use his favourite colour – orange. After the class finished he’s continued doing printmaking at home with me and gives them to people as gifts. Watch this space in 15 years time when he’s exhibiting at a gallery near you 😉

So long and thanks for all the fish…


My journey into printmaking started with my first lino cut attempt at a local arts course. The course was provided by MBC Ceramics and took place in my home town of Stanley. The tutor Emily was fantastic and I loved every minute of the course. I still really like this fish design even though it looks a bit ‘rustic’ shall we say and I’ve done loads of linocuts since.

I tried a few different versions of this design before the penny dropped – in printmaking you have to think in reverse. Coming from a photography background it helped me to think of the design on the lino as a negative. If you want a line to appear then you need to remove everything around it for it to stand out. With that in mind I set about reversing my image.

I was much happier with the level of detail in the image after making this change. What has been great about the course is having some dedicated time to sit and focus on creating artwork, without the distractions of everyday life. There was also the chance to meet a varied bunch of people on the course and be inspired by what they are creating too. It’s amazing to see what 8 different people can create starting with the same sheet of lino!


On the theme of fish, I’m definitely glad I took the plunge of starting this course as it’s opened a whole new artistic avenue for me, as well as giving me more confidence to try new things. I really enjoy the lino print process – carving the design out is very therapeutic for some reason (some people call it mindfulness, I call it whittling!). I also love the big reveal of when you peel the paper off to see what your finished design looks like. Can’t wait to see what other techniques I’ll learn on this course!