Linocuts are a method of relief printmaking similar to woodcuts. The multicolored linocuts are printed with a process known as reduction printing. A sheet of linoleum is used for the plate from which prints are run. Multicolored Linocuts are considered a reduction print process because after each color is run, a new shape is carved out of the plate. Often, very little of the plate remains when the final color is run.
To begin the process, a drawing of the image is made and the image transferred onto the linoleum plate using transfer paper. As part of the planning process, the artist determines the color for each shape within the image. Once determined, the artist uses linoleum knives to carve a shape out of the plate. Ink is then applied to the surface of the linoleum plate with an ink roller. Only the surface of the plate left uncut or in ‘relief’ will receive the ink from the roller and transfer the ink onto the surface of the paper to create the printed image. The ink is transferred from the plate onto the paper by means of a mechanical press or by rubbing the back of the paper with a baren. This method of cutting and printing is repeated,with the same plate printing on the same paper, for each successive color.
Colors are printed one on top of another as the print progresses. The colors are printed from lightest to darkest. Once a color has been printed or ‘run’, the shape intended for that color is carved out of the plate and consequently that shape is not printed over during the next color run. In order to maintain the integrity of each shape and the print, the paper must accurately line up on the plate for each successive ink transfer or ‘color run’. Lining up the paper to the plate is referred to as registering the print.
Multiple prints, made from one plate, are considered an Edition and because the plate is continuously reduced, multi-color Linocuts are made in Limited Editions. Each print in the edition is considered a unique, hand-pulled work-of-art because it is impossible to ink the plate and print the paper in the same way twice.