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Creating a gradient roll using relief ink

Gradient rolls can sometimes be tricky when you first start learning linocut so I've put together a guide of ways that I create a gradient roll to hopefully save you some time.


Colour gradient with Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash relief ink for linocut

It's important to use a brayer (roller) that is bigger or the same size as the area on the lino block you are looking to ink. Side note: if this isn't possible, I've found success before by using the gradient roll for the central part of the lino block - then turning the roller around to ink up the edges of the block using the corresponding coloured ink. If the area is much larger then I would suggest having x2 extra rollers - one for each colour that needs inking. For example, using the photograph above ^ I would have an extra red inked roller and an extra orange inked roller to 'fill in the gaps' where my gradient roll didn't fill.


I often use a second glass plate when creating a gradient roll. One for all my colour mixing (often if you're mixing each colour from scratch, this can be a time consuming and messy affair), and one for actually rolling out the gradient roll.


It's best to try to keep your rolled straight (so the blend of the ink colours stays in the same place on the roller each time) - otherwise, it can blend the colours a little too much I've found. Similarly, being sure to place the roller and roll it the same way round so you don't accidentally blend orange onto red and vice verse. You can't just roll in every direction like you can for single-coloured inks, so it's good to slow down to avoid mistakes when rolling ink out.


When you begin (and to top ink up), I use a palette knife to dab the ink into position before rolling it out, like so...


Colour gradient with Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash relief ink for linocut

When you begin to roll the ink out - I do a 'little wiggle'. By wiggle, I mean how much you move the roller down and up to blend the two colours together on your roller. If you want a harsh blend of ink then you wouldn't move the roller too much up and down - for a true gradient roll where the ink and colours are well blended, you want to move the roller up and down while you roll and watch as the colours blend.


It's really key to use a good quality roller (I use hard rubber rollers) and relief ink (I use Caligo Safe Wash Ink by Cranfield). There are no rules when it comes to which ink colours you can mix together, of course - I find using an ink extender can help to thin the inks out and make the colours more translucent. Happy rolling.

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