How Relief Prints Are Made

There are a variety of different types of relief prints. Primarily these are named after the material into which an image is gouged or engraved. The two most common types of relief print are:


  • Linocut
  • Woodcut


Both of these methods of printing consist of a channel or mark being made using gouges. Gouges are a type of blade (usually with a 'v' or 'u' shaped sharp point) with a handle on the end to hold it comfortably. The gouges are pushed across the surface of the lino or wood to cut into it creating a variety of marks.


The surface is then rollered with thin layers of printing ink and paper is pressed firmly on top using either a printing press or 'hand burnishing' techniques. Hand burnishing means pressure is applied to the print by hand using a 'baren'. I use a door handle as a type of baren, some printmakers use wooden spoons. Ideally a baren is a smooth firm object which can create pressure whilst gliding across the surface of the paper.


The paper is then peeled back to reveal a printed image, with the marks cut away from the lino/wood remaining unprinted on the paper.


A variety of cutting techniques and marks can be used to add texture and depth to an image and an image can be built up with several layers of ink to create multi-coloured images. These can be created using several lino cuts on top of each other or creating a 'reduction print'. A reduction print is when a first colour is printed and the lino/wood (also known as 'block') is cut into a bit more before printing a second colour on top of the first allowing some ares of the first colour to show through.