Relief Printing with Card Packaging

This is an easy way to create a relief print without using any lino! It’s a great project for children as requires no gouges – you can use scissors (grown ups can use craft knives too). These designs would make lovely cards to send your loved ones. Scroll down to watch a video or read on:

To make our block we need some card packaging. We don’t want to use corrugated cardboard because it will create a stripy print. Card packaging from cereal or cracker boxes is ideal.

Next, cut shapes to add to the block in a single layer of raised design to the block. We need each piece we use to be exactly the same height, so choose one piece of card to cut all the pieces from. If some of the pieces are higher than others we won’t get an even print.

Use a glue stick to stick the pieces onto the block, shiny side down.

For best results, the raised areas of your design should be quite close together, not leaving any large areas between them. This is because the roller may dip down in large gaps and place ink where we don’t want it.

When the glue has dried, roll out some ink onto an inking tray. We are using Caligo Safewash Relief Ink but you can use a water-based ink like Schmincke if you prefer. Acrylic paint is not suitable as it can dry on the rollers and spoil them, and dry on the block too quickly to take a print.

Roll a thin layer of ink onto the block.

Place the inked up block face down onto a piece of paper. Use the heel of your hand, the pad of your thumb, a spoon or a baren to press the block onto the paper. Be careful not to let it slide.

Peel off the block to reveal your print!

To make more prints, ink up the block again. These blocks are very hard to clean (we wouldn’t bother trying!) so stick to the same colour or allow the inks to blend and experiment! After you’ve finished, leave the ink residue on the block to dry.

For this project you will need:

Meet the Maker: Martin Truefitt-Baker

Martin Truefitt-Baker is a fine art printmaker and painter living in the Brecon Beacons national park, South Wales, UK. His linocuts use a reduction method, using a single piece of lino. This is progressively cutaway and overprinted onto paper several times, in a succession of tones, to build up the final image. The prints are of the animals he has seen on his walks through the local landscape, mostly within just a couple of miles of his home. Martin always tries to catch some of the magic in the way the animal moves and lives within its environment. The beautiful Usk valley, rough mountainsides, twisted trees, wildflowers and busy insects fill the backgrounds of his prints.

Describe your printmaking process.

I mostly use a reduction linocut method. 5 or 6 layers of cutting and printing work best for me. I start with the lightest tones working through to the darkest (not always simple black). Some of the layers are blends of two or three different colours of a similar tone. I tend to do this mix on the lino, using careful rolling and blotting, rather than making ‘rainbow rolls’. The full printing process can take weeks (failure is not an option!) so more time goes into designing the print and working out where the various tones will go, than the actual printing.

I design using thin paper, premixed tones of blue acrylic and a black ballpoint pen. Nothing fancy…in fact, the whole point is to avoid getting ‘precious’ about the design. I often scan and print out sections of the design. You can resize, reverse and cut them up and stick them back together, then paint over the top until the finished design seems to work.

How and where did you learn to print?

I did a strange degree in Aberystwith (West Wales) in Visual Art. Half Art history, which was a mistake as I was barely literate; half practical. I ended up specialising in illustration and book design. I started making some simple prints then.

I wrote my dissertation on Edward Bawden. It was the early 80s, he was quite old and his work had fallen out of favour and was more obscure then. He was a lovely gentleman who reminded me of my own grandfather; he seemed bemused that someone would be interested in him. I was lucky to visit him in his home and see him working in his studio. I’d say this had a lasting effect on me. That Bawden/Ravillious/Nash group of artists have since been a big influence on me, in the way they depicted that magic in the British landscape.

Why printmaking?

It links in with the illustration thing. That thrill of seeing an image reproduced. It becomes something else. You look at it differently. I often get asked ‘why don’t you just paint 20 of the designs!’ (it might be quicker) It’s just not the same.

Seeing an image taken from a print and then reproduced as a card is another thrill again. It makes you look at the design in a whole new way.

Where do you work?

I’m lucky that the cottage I live in has an extension on one side that I’ve taken over as a studio. It is in Llangattock (near Crickhowell) in the Brecon Beacons.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

Tea! …work…and the occasional bacon roll…and the cat demanding food.

How long have you been printmaking?

Serious printmaking took a long break of over 30 years while I worked in a Welsh secondary school just outside Merthyr. I’ve only been back printing and painting for myself since 2017. I did a couple of prints that year and a painting and was lucky enough to get into the Natural Eye Exhibition in the Mall Gallery.

What inspires you?

I’ve always been drawn to the quirky and unusual but I’ve found myself more immersed in and inspired by the local environment recently. It is beautiful here and I’m very lucky. The animals and scenery are fantastic. My inspiration for new prints usually comes from seeing an animal in a certain situation. All of my prints are based on real sightings. The animals are in the environment in which I saw them. Additionally, I try to portray them as if I’m there with them, their size, in that place, not just an outsider observing.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

As you well know, printmaking materials are brilliant! You could spend a fortune on new swish stuff. I was an art teacher for a long time. With that territory goes making do with very little, we were so underfunded at times; we were getting materials out of skips. I can feel a rant about society/government neglect of the Arts coming on!

Now if I am to sell work, it has to be made of the best material and as of as high quality as possible. I’ve recently bought a SLÁMA Press, which is great. I don’t use it to print on its own (although it is perfectly able to do so on small to medium prints). I use it to ‘finish’ prints that I’ve put through the press and I know are going to be slightly uneven in a few places. My ‘go to’ inks are Cranfield Caligo Safewash but I also use (and mix in) their traditional colours, if there isn’t a Safewash equivalent. I’ve never had a problem mixing types and I mostly clean up with safe solvent, so it’s not a problem. I’ve not found a better paper for my style of work than Somerset Satin 300gsm.

I find Pfeil tools are the best new tools to buy. I have a mix of new and some finer old second-hand tools.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

It changes. The Winter Fox print that has just been published as a greetings card is a current favourite. It was a struggle to print originally. Now I wish I’d printed a bigger edition but it was as much as I could manage at the time.

The other fox print ‘Vulpecula’ and the ‘Golden Morning Hares’ are up there as well, along with ‘Between Snow Showers’ which is an RHS Christmas card this year.

My first real success and the print that started to set a style for me was the ‘Otter Moon’.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

The logistics and costs of sending work to London galleries have put me off lately, along with the pandemic. I’ve been so lucky to have a few brilliant galleries close by who have shown my work from the start (especially CRiC in Crickhowell).

Facebook and Instagram are good ways for me to show what I’m working on. I have a shop connected to my website.

I keep a blog, which when I remember to write, I try to talk about the things I make (and how) in more depth. 

Art Angels Publishers have used images from several of my prints now as greetings cards (available in all good card shops and galleries!). That’s a thrill to see and each one is also a good advert, out there in the world, for my work.

I’m currently getting work together and framed for a big exhibition in Cumbria at Rheged. Great Print 7. From early December into the New Year.

 What will we be seeing from you next?

I’ve recently started using a Gunning press. I’ve been finding the ‘grunt’ needed to print a large edition of a large print on a book press very hard work. I’m developing two large linocut print designs and one of them should be completed before Christmas. That should make six finished prints this year, a record for me.

I’ve also been experimenting with some intaglio collagraph using carborundum etc. I’m hoping to reflect some of my softer painted work into my prints.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

The technique is secondary to what you want to say. Everyone has something that makes them an individual, express it and enjoy it.

This might be controversial to some! Please don’t just reproduce photographs. Make sure there is a human evident in the process and final image. 26 layer reduction prints from photographs may look great but are pretty soulless (I may get hate mail).

Everyone can draw and paint! Practice will make you better and the rest is just your style, it’s what makes you interesting.

To see more from Martin, follow him on Instagram and check out his website.

Printing a Linocut with a Relief Printing Press

Relief Printing Presses are a great option if you want to speed up your lino printing process. This one is available in A4 and square format. This type of press uses a platen to press down firmly to transfer ink from your block to the paper. Read on or scroll to the bottom to watch a video.

Open the press by pulling up the lever and moving the platen to one side. Remove the piece of foam padding.

Add a few sheets of newsprint or similar to the base board. This padding will help us to get an even print. Experiment with more or fewer sheets to see what works for you and your process. If using, place your registration sheet on top.

Lay the inked up lino block face up in the press. 

Gently lay the printing paper on top. 

Next, lay the foam sheet on top. Use the handle of the press to carefully lower the top platen down on the print stack.

The handle tucks underneath the bar at the side of the press. It then uses leverage to press the platen down on the print stack. Push firmly.

For a more even print, open the press up, carefully remove the foam and rotate the print stack by 90 degrees (if it fits). Place the foam back on top, close the press again and press once more.

Open the press and remove the print.

For this project you will need:
– Relief Printing Press
– Lino (ready carved – tools are here)
– Relief Printing Ink
– Roller
– Inking Plate
– Newsprint
– Paper on which to print

Meet the Maker – Sarah Cemmick

I’m Sarah Cemmick, a linocut printmaker based in the Eden Valley in Cumbria. I have been printmaking for over twenty-five years (give or take a couple of children mid-way through) having graduated from the University of Sunderland with a degree in environmental illustration.

My degree didn’t specialise in printmaking but the print studios were directly below the illustration department so I found myself spending a great deal of time below stairs. My final degree piece was an 8ft tall ostrich in lino. This started my love affair with lino.

I was lucky to be supported by the Princes Trust young business enterprise as soon as I left university so I became self-employed from graduation.

Describe your printmaking process.

I use traditional grey lino for all my prints, I prefer this to vinyl. All my prints are made using linseed oil inks either on traditional printing papers or a fine Japanese tissue that has gold and silver foil flecks.

I’m not a traditionalist in printing though as I prefer to use watercolours to finish my prints. I know this is perhaps against the grain for some but I prefer the finished results, I think it’s the illustrator in me breaking out.

How and where did you learn to print?

Part of my illustration degree was to create a linocut after a sketching trip to the Washington Wetlands Centre in the northeast. I had a drawing of a sleeping duck on the water surrounded by reflections which I carved on brown lino with disposable bladed tools, it’s a miracle I still have all ten digits but it didn’t stop my enthusiasm for the medium.

Why printmaking?

I love the mark making you can create with lino, yes you can have a detailed drawing to transfer to the cutting surface but once you take to it with those carving gouges it can lead you along many paths.

The joy of the first inking, seeing the design appear and then that peel and reveal never gets old. That’s why I keep printing, every cut is a learning curve and a joy.

Where do you work?

About five years ago we took down a fruitless apple tree and built my studio in its place. It overlooks my garden and is about fifteen steps from the back door of my home. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a workspace entirely mine. Designed with my husband David and built by a joiner friend (who also built sets for Star Wars, how cool is that) it’s my sanctuary space.

I have a little John etching press in the centre and four plan chests which are also used for paper cutting and inking surfaces. There is also storage for my framed work and a huge pitch pine cupboard I store my art cards in.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I spend quite a lot of time on admin from the website, processing orders and paperwork but when I have a printing day all that goes by the wayside.

Always paper preparation first, sizing everything while my hands are clean of ink and preparing the blocks and the cardboard jigs I make to keep the block in the same position for each edition.

Then it’s printing. Some days it’s all one colour but when I’m printing my seafood medley I have all my small rollers and about ten colours on the go.

I print in small batches of each design as I now have so many. They are generally all editions of 25 but through the lockdown, I increased the edition size on some new images to make them more affordable.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by wildlife, that’s the main body of work I make and always has been. I’m lucky to live in a rural location so can walk out and see hares, red squirrels and badgers along with countless birds without trying too hard. I also love African animals and would like to get back to making more large scale prints using this subject.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

My current favourite is Cranfield copper ink. New to me last Christmas and I just want to make more prints to use it. That and my trusty press, I’d be lost without it.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I’m very proud of my ostrich even though it was made at the beginning of my career as a printmaker. This year I was asked by a gallery to reprint it for an exhibition. The blocks have been stored for about twenty-four years so I had no idea if they would print. I spent a good few days cleaning them up, cutting away the original background and making jigs for them. The print is assembled in thirteen panels like a giant jigsaw so I’m able to put each block through the press. It printed like a dream and the results will be on display at the Great Print Exhibition at Rheged in Cumbria from December.

I’m also very proud that printmaking is my full-time job, it’s not easy being an artist especially when you’re married to another artist but we work hard and get to do what we love every day. I’m very lucky and never take it for granted.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

I built a website last year a huge achievement as I’m rather hopeless with anything computer related, so all my prints and cards can be viewed and bought on there. I have a wonderfully supportive following on Instagram. Also, I supply galleries around the UK with original prints and cards.

What will we be seeing from you next?

Next up are a couple of projects, I’m working on a botanical hare collection which will be my 2023 calendar, each month there’s a different flora to accompany each hare design.

I’m also working on two new fox commissions which I need to crack on with!

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Be true to yourself, believe in what you’re making and don’t worry about what others think or social media’s fickle ways. Enjoy the process and keep trying. I have great days when it all goes swimmingly and then terrible days when the print gods refuse to cooperate (black ink I’m talking about you) Oh and always keep your spare hand behind the cutting blade.

You can catch Sarah this weekend (12-14th November) at the Handmade In Britain fair at Chelsea Town Hall.

To see more from Sarah follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

You can also find her work at the following galleries: The Courtyard Gallery Appleby, Gallerina Darlington, The Tallantyre Gallery Morpeth, The Old Courthouse Gallery Ambleside, The Gallery Rheged Penrith, The Gallery Norfolk, The Glebe Gallery, The Biscuit Factory Newcastle.