A Simple and Streamlined Printmaking Shortcut
When purchasing printing blocks, it is possible to order sheets as big as 12” x 18” or even larger. However, it would not be economical to hand every student a linocut sheet this big. It also wouldn’t be practical to order sheets this large and then to cut them down to size. Many art teachers turn to the sensible alternative and order the 4” x 6” sheets for all their students.
4” x 6” sheets are a reasonable size for those just learning to print, but more advanced students might relish the challenge of working on a larger print. If you only have the small, precut linocut blocks, one solution is to use four printing blocks as one.
The concept is simple. The student divides his or her drawing into four and places part of each drawing onto one of the four blocks. The rest of the process follows the usual printing technique until it is time to print. The challenge then becomes how to position each block so it aligns perfectly when printing on one large sheet of paper.
There is an easy solution to ensure the prints are always aligned perfectly. Start with a sheet of cardboard similar in size to what your final print size will be. The cardboard should be relatively thick.
Using a ruler, draw a line across the cardboard that is 2” longer than the combined distance of the width of two linocut block. i.e. if the student is using the standard 6” wide block, measure across 14”. Do the same measuring down in order to create a rectangle. From there, measure and draw the outline for each of the linocut blocks as if they were in each of the four corners of the rectangle (see photo above).
With an x-acto blade, carefully cut into, but not through, the cardboard at each of the linocut block outlines. The idea is to create an inlay where each of the four linocut blocks will fit. The cardboard will serve as a holder, maintaining equal distance of the blocks without slippage (see photo below).
When printing, apply ink to each of the four blocks before placing them in the cardboard. This will assure no ink is applied to the cardboard that would, in turn, mistakenly be applied to the printing paper.
This is an easy, effective and economical way to produce larger prints without misaligning the paper.
Do you have any shortcuts you want to share?
How do you decide what size print blocks to buy?