Relief Printing With a 3D Printed Press
. linoleum or plywood
. dry thin cardboard or thick paper
. block ink
. carving tools for linocut or woodcut
A lot of you have probably done this at some point in school already. It’s a very common and easy-to-learn technique, but can have a lot of complexity at the same time.
1. Linocut or Woodcut
First you need to decide which material you want to use. Linoleum is a bit more expensive and more difficult to find (usually in art supply stores), but it’s easier to work with and won’t crack as easily in comparison to wood. Plywood can be bought everywhere and has a nice texture to it. You decide!
2. Carving, Carving, Carving!
Use various cutting and carving tools to remove the parts you don’t want to print. These areas will stay empty, everything else will be inked. You can start by sketching your artwork onto the wood or linoleum. By the way: There is a technique called reduction linocut/woodcut where you gradually remove material after you printed each colour to make a multicoloured print!
Use a brayer to roll out some ink on a piece of plexiglas/acrylic. Try to get a very thin layer of ink on your brayer and then roll over your piece of linoleum or plywood. Make sure that all areas you want to print are covered with a thin coat of ink.
If you’ve tried any of the other techniques, you know how this step works. You will first need to adjust the pressure on your press, though. You can do this with a spare piece of wood/linoleum to get dialled in. Now place your inked up plate on the press table, add some dry paper and put the felt on top. Roll the sandwich through the press once.
prints by June Heap, Alejandra Mares & Xavier Moreno
Here you can see a woodcut for comparison. The process is the same, but you might want to cut the outline of your areas with a scalpel first to keep the wood from splitting. This is also how the thin lines are cut in this print. Tip: If you are planning on doing a bunch of these relief prints, you might want to switch out the felt for some thicker cardboard, it will work just as well and keep the blanket healthy.
If you have a 3D-printer at home, you can absolutely use it to print your own plates. For relief printing we suggest using a height of about 3-5mm for the plate, the areas you want to print should be significantly higher than the ones that you want to be empty. It might also be a good idea to sand the top surface to remove unwanted blobs sticking out. However, a textured print can look cool too, so feel free to experiment!
You can find more techniques and helpful information in our free ebook!