Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Printing - Linocuts

The children carve designs into linoleum to make relief prints. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 4 sessions.

  • Learning about relief printing
  • Making many prints from a single plate
  • Understanding and using printing terms
relief printing, printing plate, brayer, ink tray

  • Linoleum for printing–approximately 5- x 7-inch piece for each child
  • Tracing paper cut the size of the linoleum pieces
  • Pencils with blunt points
  • Carbon paper
  • Black permanent-ink markers
  • Linoleum carving tools (including small and large v-gouges, small and large u-gouges, and square gouges)
  • Bench hooks – one for each child
  • Soft rubber brayers
  • Newsprint paper
  • Crayons
  • Black water-based printing ink 
  • Sheets of glass or Plexiglas to be used as ink trays
  • Printing paper
  • Colored construction paper and other absorbent papers 
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines from newspapers
Note:  Various types of linoleum for printing are available in art supply stores. Unmounted grey linoleum is less expensive and was used in this lesson. 

First Session
  • Set out one piece of linoleum for each child plus a piece for demonstration.
  • Set out tracing paper, carbon paper, pencils, and markers.
  • Set out a bench hook and one of each type of carving tool for demonstration.
  • Prepare an area to demonstrate the printing process by covering the work surface with newspaper and setting out an ink tray, a brayer, printing ink, and printing paper.
How to Begin
  • In the next several sessions, the children will be carving designs into pieces of linoleum to make printing plates that will be used to transfer the designs onto paper any number of times. 
  • Explain that when printing ink is rolled onto the printing plate, the areas that are carved out will not get ink on them, so when the print is made, the cut away areas will be the same color as the paper; the rest of the areas will be the color of the printing ink. This process is called relief printing.
  • Demonstrate how to carve into the linoleum with the cutting tools. Position the bench hook on the table with one end wrapped against the edge of the table. Place the piece of linoleum on the bench hook. Be sure that the support hand which is not being used for cutting is placed behind the cutting tool. With the other hand, hold the tool horizontally with a slight angle and carve away from yourself. Avoid gouging straight down into the linoleum which takes much more strength and is unnecessary. Remember that the parts that are cut away will not print.
  • Show the children the type of cut that each tool will make in the linoleum: the small v-gouge cuts thin lines; the small u-gouge cuts thick lines; and the large gougers are used to take out areas of linoleum or to create textures. Point out that in order for a line to print, areas must be taken away from both sides of it. This can be done using the small v-gouge, cutting along the edges of the line before gouging out the surrounding areas.
  • Using the piece of linoleum from the demonstration, show the children the printing process. Place about an inch of printing ink onto the sheet of glass, or ink tray. Explain that a brayer is a roller used to transfer ink from the ink tray to the printing plate. Roll the brayer over the ink in several directions. The children often want to spread the ink over the whole tray, so be sure they understand that the intention is to have the ink evenly distributed on the brayer. Roll the inked brayer over the printing plate several times. Refill the brayer by rolling it across the ink tray again. Then roll the brayer over the printing plate in another direction. Repeat this several times until enough ink has been transferred from the ink tray and is evenly distributed on the printing plate.
  • Show the children how to pull a print. Place the printing plate on a clean surface with the inked side up. Lay a piece of printing paper on top of the plate. Holding the paper in place with one hand, use the other hand to rub firmly with the soft part of the finger tips. Be sure to rub the entire surface. Tell the children that an important characteristic of a quality print is its sharp, crisp edges. They should rub around all the edges very carefully.
  • Holding one side of the print with one hand, carefully lift up the other side to see if enough ink has been transferred to the paper. If not, let the paper drop and continue rubbing. When finished, carefully pull the paper from the printing plate.
  • Have the children make their drawings on tracing paper, keeping the subjects simple and avoiding fine details that might break off too easily when carving. Show them how to transfer their drawings to the linoleum, using a piece of carbon paper placed between the drawing and the linoleum. Using a blunt pointed pencil, go over the lines with firm pressure. To avoid smearing the carbon paper lines on the linoleum while doing the carving, go over them with black permanent markers.
    Note:  The final prints will be mirror-images of the drawings. If this is undesirable, as with numbers or letters, the children should flip their drawings over before transferring them to the linoleum.

    Second/Third Session
    • Set out printing plates, bench hooks, and carving tools.
    • Set out a few extra pieces of linoleum.
    • Set out newsprint paper and crayons.
    How to Begin
    • In these two sessions, the children will be using the carving tools to cut their designs into the linoleum.
    • Review the safe use of the tools and the bench hook. Have the children try some practice cuts on the extra pieces of linoleum so they can get a feel for how much pressure needs to be applied.
    • Before making the prints, demonstrate how to make crayon rubbings of the carved printing plates to see if details need to be added or changed. Place a piece of newsprint paper over the printing plate and, using the side of a crayon, gently rub across the complete surface. 
    • Have the children carve their designs into the linoleum, encouraging them to include patterns and textures, and then make rubbings to test that their designs are complete.
    Fourth Session
    • Prepare one or more printing stations. Each station should be covered with newspaper and include a magazine, an ink tray, a brayer, printing ink, and printing paper.
    • Set aside a clean area for rubbing and pulling the prints.
    • Plan space to dry the prints as they are pulled.
    • Set out the prepared printing plates and printing paper.
    How to Begin
    • Tell the children that they will be using their printing plates to make as many prints as time allows.
    • Review the printing process, emphasizing the importance of evenly distributing the ink on the brayer and rubbing carefully around the whole print, including the edges. Tell the children to place their printing plates on a magazine when applying the ink. As the children finish they should turn the magazine page so that the next person will have a clean work surface.
    • Explain that you will be refill the ink on the ink trays when necessary because using too much ink will clog the lines on the printing plates.
    • Have the children spend the rest of the session making as many prints as time allows.
    Note:  After pulling at least one good, clear print on the white paper, the children enjoy printing on a variety of colored papers. Mounting three of each print made on different colors of paper makes a stunning display.

    • Bench hooks are necessary safety features when children use linoleum cutting tools. The ones from art supply stores are metal, but they are very simple to make from wood–be sure to sand the wood well to avoid splinters.
    • In order for the children to understand the printing process, it is important for them to see it done. Using the demonstration linoleum allows the children to see the variety of effects that each tool will make.
    • Because linoleum hardens with age, it should be used within a year after it is ordered. If the linoleum has become too hard, warm it on a hot plate or in an oven to make it easier to carve.
    • A proper amount of ink on the ink tray will sound tacky when rolling the brayer across it. If the sound is smooth or slimy, there is too much ink.
    • Although any color of printing ink can be used, the contrast of black ink usually makes the most striking prints.
    • If time permits, show the children how a finished print is numbered. The number of the impression is placed over the total number of prints made. For example, the first print pulled out of five prints would be 1/5; the second print pulled would be 2/5 and so on. This is written in pencil on one side under the print. The artist’s name appears on the other side under the print, also in pencil.
    • Is the ink distributed evenly on each print?
    • Are the edges of the prints sharp and crisp?
    • Discuss the effects created by the different colors of paper.
    What the children might say...
    • I accidentally chopped off a piece of my flower.
    • I like the way the gouged areas make a texture in the background.
    • My print came out very light.
    • Can I use a different color of ink for my next print?
    What you might say...
    • If a piece of linoleum is accidentally cut off, let's see if we can turn the mistake into part of your design.
    • When you gouge out large areas of linoleum, some of the lines will usually show in your print. I agree that it adds a nice overall texture to your picture.
    • If your print came out too light, it is usually because you need more ink on your printing plate or you need to rub longer. Often the second time you apply ink to the printing plate the image will be stronger.
    • In this session, we will only use the black ink because, in order to change the color of ink that you use for printing, we need to wash the printing plate and let it dry overnight. However, you can print on any number of colors of paper to achieve different effects.
    Click here to view this lesson in a printer friendly format.