Beginning Relief Printmaking Resources

Books / Organizations / Tutorials / Podcasts / Glossary

This guide was created to assist those people who are new to the world of printmaking. Printmaking refers to the artistic process of transferring images from one material (linoleum, rubber block, wood, metal even glass) onto another surface, often paper or fabric. Although general printmaking resources will be highlighted, this guide will focus on relief printmaking because this type of printmaking is the most accessible and can be done without an expensive printing press.

Books

Beginner’s Guide to Linocut: 10 Print Projects with Top Techniques to Get You Started by Susan Yates Search Press. (2019)

Professional printmaker Susan Yates provides a clear introduction to relief printmaking with linoleum by giving the reader 10 practical projects to do themselves. The projects include gift cards, tea towels and artwork to frame. Find out more on WorldCat.

Block print magic: The Essential Guide to designing, carving, and taking your artwork further with relief printing by Emily Louise Howard (2019)

This 144 page book focuses on the printmaking practice called relief printing or sometimes called block printing. The book has five chapters; essential tools and materials, essential techniques, the basics, targeted techniques and waste not. There are detailed photo illustrating all aspects of relief printing. Throughout the book there are projects that the reader can attempt. There is an extensive list of tools and resources available to printmakers. Find out more on WorldCat

Linocut for Artists & Designers by Nick Morley. The Crowood Press Ltd. (2016)

This 176 page book is filled with over 300 illustrations and step to step instructions for projects that will introduce the reader to relief printmaking techniques and tools. This book encourages experimentation of different approaches to making linocuts and is a great resource for both those who are printing by hand at home or on a press at a print shop. Find out more on WorldCat.

Paper and ink workshop: Printmaking techniques using a variety of methods and materials by John Foster. Rockport Publishers. (2014)

This 191 page book provides a glossary of printmaking terms and a list of equipment and materials used in printmaking for woodblock, silk screen, letterpress. This book does not have step by step information about specific printmaking techniques. This book is more about discussing the “why printmaking” and the emotional connection of printmakers.  The book is filled with colorful illustrations of contemporary printmakers. There is a feature throughout the book “My print setup” which gives the reader a detailed description with photos of working artists’ studio with tips from these artists. Find out more on WorldCat.

Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials and Processes Second Edition by Bill Fick and Beth Grabowski Laurence King Publishing (2015)

A great book to start with to get a detailed overview of printmaking techniques. Fick and Grabowski outline relief, intaglio, collograph, lithography, screen printing and mono printing in this 256 page volume. The chapters feature step by step pictures for each type of printmaking. The format of the book is very accessible for beginning printmakers as well as advance printmakers. Find out more on WorldCat.

Back to top

Organizations

Association of Print Scholars

This is a member organization for print enthusiasts, curators, collectors, academics, graduate students, artists, paper conservators, critics, independent scholars, and dealers. https://printscholars.org

Center for Contemporary Printmaking

A non-profit organization dedicated to the art of the print: intaglio, lithography, monotype, silkscreen, woodblock printing, paper works, book arts and digital arts. CCP is located in Norwalk, CT and offers artist-in-residence programs, exhibitions, and workshops. https://contemprints.org/

Mid America Print Council

An educational and community-based organization that focuses on all print related arts. MAPC provides members with access to a network of printmakers, resources, opportunities, newsletters, and a biennial conference. https://midamericaprintcouncil.org

PrintAustin Collective & Print Santa Fe

An artist-led non-profit showcasing traditional and contemporary approaches in printmaking. Each year PrintAustin produces a month-long festival. This year PrintSantaFe Collective was established and will produce a similar month-long festival in the Santa Fe area. https://printaustin.org/and https://www.printsantafe.org

Print Center of New York

The leading non-profit exhibition space in New York dedicated to exploring the dynamic and accessible medium of print within broader artistic and cultural discourses. Print World Map is a directory of printmaking studios, artists, and events throughout the world. https://www.printcenternewyork.org

Southern Graphics Council International

An educational non-profit organization committed to informing our membership about issues and processes concerning original prints, drawings, book arts, and handmade paper. Each year SGCI host an annual conference which changes location each year. Each year awards are given to highly regarded artist within the field of printmaking. https://www.sgcinternational.org

Back to top

Online Tutorials

Draw, Cut, Ink Press: For the Love of Linocut & Relief Printmaking features step by step instructions in relief printmaking, interview with printmakers, and tips and tricks of linocut printing. https://www.drawcutinkpress.com

Printmaker Erik Farseth presents Printmaking Process: Relief Printing. https://jcruelty.com/artwork/relief-prints/printmaking-process-relief-printing-101/

British artist, Nick Morley, Linocut Boy, presents a blog on his website. A great place to start is his post, “Getting Started with Linocut” equipment. https://linocutboy.com/notes-and-queries/

United Kingdom’s Royal Academy Art School presents a short tutorial on how to make a relief print. https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/family-how-to-relief-printing

Back to top

Podcasts

Hello, Print Friend is a podcast dedicated to the celebration and amplification of contemporary printmaking and its culture. Releasing interview every week with artists, activists curators, and print champions, we explore what it is that brings together this passionate, yet often geographically separated community, across a press bed and around the world (taken from website https://helloprintfriend.com) 235 episodes beginning October 18, 2018, latest episode aired November 4, 2022. This podcast has episodes in English and in Spanish.

From Cristea Roberts Gallery, Making a Mark, podcast series exploring the relationship between artists and printmaking. Five episodes beginning January 21, 2021, latest episode aired September 29, 2022. https://cristearoberts.com/podcast/

The Print Cast is a podcast about the expanding world of printmaking today. Host Nick Naughton talks with some of the best contemporary printmakers working today, including designers, illustrators, collaborative print artists, commercial printers, letterpress, foil stampers, and even book binders. Nick and his guests talk shop sharing anecdotes, business ideas, and technical tips with listeners everywhere. (Taken from website printcast.com) 40 episodes beginning February 2, 2019, latest episode aired July 6, 2021. This podcast is not being produced any longer. Archived episodes can be found at Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Glossary

Baren

A smooth disc shaped object, normally with a handle that you grip onto, which can be used for hand printing. It essentially provides a flat surface to distribute downward pressure across a small area. The baren is rubbed across the paper, forcing the ink to be applied to the paper. Traditionally, those making Japanese woodcuts used barens made of bamboo. Barens can be made of wood, glass, bamboo or metal. Even a wooden spoon can be used as a baren for hand printing.

Block printing

This term is often used interchangeable with relief printing. Historically the term was used to describe an ancient textile tradition that originated in India centuries ago which involved stamping designed onto fabric by hand using carved wooden blocks . Block printing can refer to using carved wood, linoleum, and rubber to stamp designs on fabric, paper or other materials.

Brayer

Roller Brayer – Printing, Late 19th Century” is licensed under CC BY 4.0. An example of a brayer used in the 19th Century. The modern version is very similar.

A brayer is a hand roller which is used to thinly apply ink or paint onto a printing surface (matrix).

Edition

This is the number of prints made from one plate, usually at the same time. This may be a limited edition, with a fixed number of impressions produced on the understanding that no further impressions (copies) will be produced. An open edition means that the number of prints that will be made of that image is only limited by the life of the plate or matrix.

Etching

Jan Luyken’s Frontispiece for Osteologia(1680) is an example of an etching.

In this intaglio printmaking process a copper, zinc, or brass plate is covered with acid-resistant ground made of asphaltum, beeswax, rosin and solvent. After the artist scratches an image into the ground with a an etching needle s/he submerges the plate in an acid bath which “bites” into the areas where the ground has been scratched away. The longer the plate is submerged the deeper the lines will become. 

Intaglio printmaking

The family of printing techniques which transfers ink from the recesses of a matrix (metal plates), rather than from its surface. Techniques using intaglio printing include etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint, and mezzotint. Many of these techniques require the use of acid

Letterpress

A relief technique for printing movable type of letters and numbers (blocks with images may also be used). Metal, wood, or polymer forms a standard height are set in place in the bed of a letterpress press. 

Linocut

Cover to Pionery (1918), linoleum cut with added watercolour, by Vera Ermolaeva.

A relief technique using a sheet of linoleum from with shapes are gouged away using chisels or knives, leaving the the printed image as a raised surface. Ink is transferred from the surface of the block by the application of pressure. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a printing press. 

Linoleum

A product consisting of a canvas backing thickly coated with linseed oil and powdered cork used as a floor covering. For art purposes linoleum is sold in art stores and is often mounted on a wood block. There are other products called linoleum which is softer and more rubber like. Linoleum is easier to carve than wood.

Lithography

From Eugène Grasset’s Plants and Their Application to Ornament (1896). Color lithography which required several runs through the printing press, one for each color.

A printmaking technique that uses a plane surface (such as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive by using a greasy substance and the blank area ink repellant.

Matrix

A physical surface that can be manipulated to hold ink, which is transferred to paper. Most, though not all, matrices are able to print the same image many times. Matrices used in printmaking include blocks of wood, blocks of rubber, sheets of linoleum, metal plates, sheets of plexigass, and slabs of limestone. 

Mono print

An image that can only be printed once in its original state, unlike other forms of printmaking. Typically, the artist will use ink to paint an image onto a smooth surface such as plexiglass, a metal plate or gelli plates and pull either by hand or a press.

Printing Press

This is an etching press that can be used for relief or intaglio printing making. “Etching Press 3” by MountainMadePhotos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. There are several different types of presses used in printmaking depending of the what printmaking technique is being used. There are relief presses, etching presses, litho presses and letter presses. Some presses can be used for several type of printmaking for example etching presses can be used for relief printmaking.

Printmaking

The artistic process based on the principle of transferring images from a matrix onto another surface, most often paper or fabric. Traditional printmaking techniques include woodcut, etching, engraving and lithography while modern artists have expanded available techniques to include screenprinting. Printmaking is a process that typically allows artists to make multiple original works of art.

Relief printmaking

Printmaking technique in which the image is printed from a raised portion of a surface area after the artist carves away areas s/he wants to appear white. It is the oldest form of printmaking and can be done by hand without chemicals and a press. To make a relief print, the artist uses a sharp tool to gouge out areas from a material such as wood, linoleum or rubber blocks. 

Screen printing

Screen printing our ‘Utopian Chaos’ posters” by violarenate is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

This printmaking technique uses a stencil method to create images. For screen printing the artist uses a screen made of finely woven fabric which is attached to a sturdy wood or metal frame. The artists uses a material such as glue, paper, shellac, film stencils or photographic processes to block out areas on the screen. The ink passes through the open areas of the stencil to create the image.

Woodcut

Katsushika Hokusai The Underwave off Kanagawa, 1829/1833, color woodcut, Rijksmuseum Collection

In this printmaking process, the image is carved into wood blocks whose surface fun parallel to the grain. Because the grain is resistant to cutting, detail is often difficult to achieve. However, with softer woods, the grain pattern itself is often visible and be incorporated into the composition of the final print.

Back to top