D.I.Y.T. Part III of Printing without a Press: Inking & Printing

This is the third and last part of a series of posts about Printing without a Press.  To view the other posts in the series click I, II

Part III - Inking, Registration and Printing
Before I start, just some notes about cutting:
  • When cutting with a gouge, you want the gouge to do most of the work for you, you shouldn't be forcing too much pressure into the lino.  
  • Always turn the linoleum around as you cut and ALWAYS CUTTING AWAY from your body. 
  •  Keep your free hand behind your cutting hand and never place it in front of your cutting tool.  
  • It may also be helpful to make or purchase a cutting bench for added support.

So you've completely cut your image, now we can print.  You'll need your inking slab, brayer, paper and inks.  I used water based inks for these prints for the sake of convenience and quick drying time, normally I would use oil based inks.  I've found that oil based inks produce a richer color on the prints however clean up is messier and involves turpentine or paint thinners.

When printing multicolored prints you start off by printing you're lighter colors first, and the darkest color last.  In my case thats red first then, black. When you roll out your inks on your slap (I use a plate of glass, that I've taped a white matting board underneath) you want the ink to look like velvet and have an even texture that covers the entire brayer.  (It also gives off a certain sound when you roll it, which I can't really explain, but you'll know it once you pull a few prints.) 

Ink your image by rolling the brayer in one direction over the linoleum.

Make sure each part  of the image is completely inked.

Pick a corner of the paper and line it up with the registration indentation you created and line up one of the edges.  

I like to place a separate thin sheet of paper (newsprint works) in-between the back of the paper I'm printing on and the barren/wooden spoon.  Sometimes the barren gets dirty and you end up rubbing that dirt onto the back of the paper, so it's just a buffer to keep the prints clean.  

Try to always keep one hand holding the print down, to prevent it from shifting while you rub with the wooden spoon.  Rub the barren or the back of a wooden spoon on the print, applying equal amounts of pressure.

You can check how the print is doing by lifting the corner opposite the registered corner.

Once you covered the entire surface, you're done lift up to see your print.

Once your print is dry, repeat the same method for the next color, and so on.  If you measured properly in the beginning your colors should register perfectly.  If not you have three other corners you can use to get that registration right.  (I had to shift my marks, hence the additional cuts you see on the block) 

If you're using water baed inks, you'll notice that they start to dry up on the slap, and sometimes right on the block itself, to prevent this I'll have a small cosmetic bottle filled with water nearby.  Give it a a small mist, so it won't dry up too fast.  I also don't put out a ton of ink from the tube onto the inking slap, in fear of it drying up before I get to the next print.  If you use oil based inks, this isn't a problem, the only problem is you'll need a drying rack to hang up your prints, it takes a least 24 hours for the prints to touch dry. 

It's all trial and error at this point, some prints need a little more elbow grease than others, and results do vary, but thats kind of the beauty to this method, each print, although the same image, is unique and original in its own way.

I hope this helps, good luck printing!


  1. Thanks for sharing. I used to do prints when I had access to the RISD print shop and I really miss it. I think I will try linoleum soon. :D

  2. Thanks so much for your advice - I've just got back into lino printing, and your guide to printing without a press has been really useful!

  3. Thanks for sharing the information. I found the info quite helpful.
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