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A guide to drying your linocut prints

A lot of folks are surprised when I tell them how long their prints will likely take to dry at the end of one of my linocut workshops.


I teach my classes with professional oil based relief inks so that people can make the best print they can. I try to steer folks away from using the cheaper water based inks as this can buckle your paper and dry quite patchy. The problem with using oil based inks is of course their much longer drying times.


I can't tell you the amount of times I've stared wistfully at my linocut prints drying and wished I could hurry them up. Here are a few things I've learned about drying prints that I hope might be useful to you.


Humidity


How humid your studio or house is can have a big impact on how long it takes for your prints to dry. The more humid your house is, the longer prints will take to dry. A good way around this is to get a small de-humidifier for your studio space. I'm always conscious of the cost of running such an appliance but some printmakers swear by it and it can really help if you're in a pickle and need something to dry faster.


Drying rack rabbit art linocut print Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

Air circulation


Linocut prints like to have good air circulation so a wall or floor mounted drying rack is ideal. These can be a little costly but stand the test of time and you can store many dozens of prints in them without using masses of space.


If buying a drying rack isn't an option, two small nails into a wall with string tied between them to make a washing line is a great alternative. You can pick up a bag of small wooden pegs cheaply from most craft shops. You can then peg your prints side by side along this line of string. Try not to overlap the prints too much in case they smudge and be aware of leaving windows open too wide should a strong gust of wind whip the prints off the line.


Be wary of buying larger pegs that might have teeth that can damage your paper. If you want to use large plastic pegs, try to get soft grip pegs that won't leave marks.



Drying in a hurry


Sometimes it can feel frustrating when waiting for prints to dry, either for an exhibition or between colour layers but try to be mindful that this is all part of the process. If we wanted a fast medium, we'd use a computer to print our designs. The slow roll of linocut is all part of the process so try to embrace it if you can.


Saying that, in my early days of learning I have tried most of the 'emergency' ways of drying a linocut print. I've hung them above radiators and even put them in ovens (not advisable). I think I even microwaved a print once in a hurry - do not try that one at home please. try using a dehumidifier as I mentioned above to suck the excess moisture out the air.


Open a window to get that air circulating. I love the summertime for lots of reasons but a big one for me is being able to throw open the windows and have that lovely warm air dry my prints in half the time it takes in winter.


You may have heard some people talk about using chemicals to dry their prints. In my opinion, cobalt, wax and other chemical driers are so damaging to the environment that they should be avoided. Even the rags and cloths used to clean up these chemicals should be disposed of separately from your 'normal' rubbish and care taken not to get any in the water system. It is advised to use gloves and use these chemicals in a well ventilated space. Please try to aim for more natural methods (for which there are plenty) though.


Racing stripes snail animal art linocut print Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

Planning ahead


I'm constantly learning in linocut and sometimes you have to make these mistakes so you can better plan for next time.


For example, I print my linocut Christmas cards in summer when I know they will dry much faster than if I leave it until November to print them. Equally, if I am printing any greeting cards on much thicker paper than I would normally print on, I account for an extra couple of weeks drying time before I need to use or sell them.


Darker inks in my experience take longer to dry so try to factor that into your creative process. Using a thicker paper like Somerset will take longer to dry than a thin Japanese paper, too.

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