Letterpress / Printing

The Reduction Cut!

As part of my internship at PRESS I had the opportunity to design and print my first reduction cut creation!  A reduction print is a method of printmaking that uses a single block, which is then carved away at in a series of different stages to reveal a multicolored print.  For my first attempt I chose to do a three colored image of a squid.

I started by transferring my image onto a linoleum block and began to carve away at all the space that I wished to remain white.  After carving the shape of the squid and the surrounding bubbles, it was time to print my first layer! I mixed a very light gray using translucent white and the tiniest bit of black and sent my first run through the letterpress. When printing a reduction cut you want your first layer to be of the lightest color, so that it does not cover the later layers. That being said my layers were to go from light gray, a slightly darker gray and then a black outline.

After the first run I had to return to carving the block in areas that I wished the light gray to remain. For this layer I carved away at the bubbles and squid, hollowing out the shapes to leaving an outline of the details. Then, I sent my plate back through the letterpress after mixing a darker shade of gray by adding little dabs of black and mixing it into the light gray from my first layer. When mixing the ink it is important to remember that the hue will be a couple of shades lighter when it runs through the press.

Initially while planning the composition, I intend for each shape to be outlined in black but as the second layer was being printed I realized that I preferred the look of the bubbles outlined in gray than in black. So for my last layer since I had decided that I only wanted the squid to be outline in black I had to go to my block and carve away all of the bubbles.While printing the last layer of black outline I added a little more pressure to the bed hoping to slightly emboss the squid.

I left PRESS that Saturday with a glow after a whimsical twelve hours of printing on the letterpress. It was the first time I really got to spend quality time on the Vandercook learning to register, print and clean. Being behind such a powerful machine and watching it bring my designs to life was magical and i cannot wait to capture that feeling again!

Here is a quick slideshow showing parts of my design process and the different stages of a reduction cut!

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One thought on “The Reduction Cut!

  1. Pingback: Pay attention, or overcoming operator error | Melanie Mowinski

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