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A guide to printmaking paper

Choosing which paper to use to print your lino blocks on can seem like a confusing choice when you first start learning about linocut printmaking. When I first started learning linocut, I was fortunate to have a full-time job - and I'll admit I wasted a lot of paper in my learning stages as I experimented. I'd strongly encourage you to try lots of different paper types, too - it's the only way you can learn what works for you and what you enjoy print


The following paper types are ones that I've used personally - there are so many different paper types available though - several online shops sell sample packs where you can try a couple of sheets of each type of paper. An example of this is the Awagami Editioning sample pack.



Somerset printmaking paper Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb

Somerset paper


Somerset paper is a popular choice amongst professional printmakers. Printed in the UK at St. Cuthbert's Mill, these paper types are best suited for printing with a press. They are a higher gsm (thicker - usually 250-350gsm) than Japanese papers and I often buy Somerset by the sheet (£5-£7/sheet) and then cut it down to size if the block is small. They are superb quality and come with an embossed watermark to prove their authenticity. They're a popular choice with professional printmakers and are printed at St. Cutherbert's paper mill in the UK.


Personally, I prefer the smooth or silk versions of these paper - they are less textured and are easier for me to print a large solid area of ink. Some prints might call for a rougher surface, like a textured tree print, so it's worth trying with a sheet of each when you first begin printing on them.


True Somerset paper is acid free, pH neutral and 100% cotton - something that is important if you are selling prints professionally so they are archival quality. The sheets are often sold with a deckled edge.


Zerkall and Fabriano are similar paper types to these - thicker papers best suited for printing with a press. There is also a less expensive version called Stonehenge that is good for beginners to print on and is usually available as a pad.



Japanese paper


If you've been following me for a while or attended one of my linocut workshops, you might have heard me talking about my favourite paper for linocut printing - Japanese HoSho paper. She's an off-white 90gsm acid free paper - beautifully thin but strong and you can see the ink from your block slowly appearing as you print with this paper.


Japanese paper is perfect for hand burnishing (printing by hand) - HoSho is available often in large pads (around A3 size) of 20 or so sheets - easy to tear off and cut down to size. HoSho paper grips the inked block very well and doesn't slip easily so it's great for beginners and more experienced printmakers alike.


The only downside I've found to using this paper - and it's a small downfall - is that when you are printing A3 sized blocks, HoSho is about an inch smaller than standard sized mounts and frames. This makes the prints difficult to frame and mount often - I've had mounts cut to size before for this paper type.

 


Camden linocut print on yellow lokta paper Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb


Nepalese Lokta and Thai Mulberry


I'm grouping these together here because they are my go-to paper choices for brightly coloured and fun papers. Both are incredible thin so perfect for printing my hand - either with a wooden spoon, baren or sometimes even with your fingers believe it or not.


They are up to 80gsm and thus have to be handled gently to avoid bends and creases. Both are acid free.


These paper are often sold with a minimum order of x10 sheets, for example, and are usually clean cut (as opposed to a deckled edge).


The colours available in both of these paper types are incredible - I often choose the paper type early on in the planning stages of my linocuts and choosing the coloured paper to go with my black ink is excellent fun as it really enhances the print.


One thing to note if you aren't familiar with this type of paper is that it can be very unpredictable when ripped or cut down to size - the fibres in this paper make it easy to tear 'randomly' even when you are ripping the paper with a metal ruler.


Grit is another thing to be wary of when using this type of paper. These very small gritty looking pieces are embedded in the paper and I've accidentally caught them when rubbing too hard on the back of the paper and ripped a hole in the print I was working on.



Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb printing on nepalese paper linocut printing

 

Card and cheap printing paper


Using printing paper (ie. the kind you put in a computer printer) can be a good option for printing with children or an inexpensive way to pull proofs (test prints). I find 'printing paper' doesn't grip the inked surface of the block very well so your paper can slip quite easily. Newsprint or 'chip shop' paper works really well for pulling test prints, too.


Printing on card for greeting cards is a fun way to make your own cards for Christmas or for friends/birthdays. Stamps can be made from traditional grey lino but pink/blue rubber and Softcut are good choices for making stamps from. Cards can be bought in packs with envelopes, usually around 250gsm - it's best to check is these are acid free when you buy them, though if you are making simple prints for family and friends this matters less of course. I've found greeting cards take a long time to dry - the card is thick and you often have to ink the block a lot for solid printing areas, all adding to the drying time.



Handmade paper


I'm yet to actually make my own paper - an exciting project yet to come - but I have printed on handmade paper bought from other Artists before. The print below was printed on a pink handmade paper - it features my print 'Daydreaming'. Handmade paper tends to be very thick and not grip the inked block particularly well. I l often find myself with a fair bit of slippage when using this paper - I printed the below by hand with a wooden spoon but it took me several attempts to pull a good print because the paper is so textured. I love the look of it though and the texture enhances the final print.



Pink handmade paper Daydreaming Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb woman linocut print

 

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