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How to paint on lino blocks

This is a method I've used a couple of times for when you have a very small area of colour on a print that you don't want to use a large, mostly empty, block of lino for but want to keep the print a linocut rather an hand-painting on the final paper print.


Below is the most recent block I've 'painted' on, called 'Manny the rat'. By painting on, I mean that the areas I want to apply to the block are far too small or close together to use even my smallest roller, so I apply the lino ink with a paintbrush.


Manny the rat animal art Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

^For the rat and pumpkin print above, I planned for it to be a multiblock print with two blocks. Alternatively, I could've created two extra A4 lino blocks with just these small raised parts on and printed them all separately, but that way feels like such a waste of lino.


Here is a step-by-step guide to how I printed the first block of this print.


Firstly, I mixed the nude ink colour for the feet and ears ready to be painted on by hand.


Professional relief oil based ink can be really tricky to paint on. so be sure to use old brushes that you won't mind dedicating to this method going forward. Ink like this isn't meant to be painted on in this way and stays incredibly thick so doesn't behave like the kind of paint you'd use for painting paper normally.


The rest of this block had the orange ink of the pumpkin rolled on in the 'traditional' way with a roller so I needed to wipe away this orange ink from the area I wanted to paint a different colour on...


Cleaning lino block animal art Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

^These colours are only divided by a thin 1mm cut into the lino block so I had to be careful and take my time with this step so as not to just wipe off the orange ink. I usually wrap a damp cloth or bio wet wipe around my finger and carefully clean the required area.


Painting lino block animal art Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

^I painted the grey onto the stem part of the pumpkin and then the nude coloured ink I'd mixed onto the feet and ears.


You have to apply the ink thicker than you would normally if you were using a roller.


The most important part of this process is to clean your brush in between each print you pull. This is because the paintbrush gets very 'gunky' with ink which makes it harder and harder to paint with.


For this, you have to use spirits. I use a small bowl and pour in (very carefully as it's strong stuff) about 0.5cm of spirit.


I use a bottle of what is called 'Zest it' that works really well. After I've swirled my brush around in this liquid, I pat it dry on a tissue and it's ready to be used on the next block. The same applies of course if you are changing ink colours.


Painting lino block Zest It spirit animal art Stellabox Designs Haychley Webb Norwich Norfolk

This isn't a quick process by any means - each print takes about 15 minutes to ink and pull but it's worth it.

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