For this year’s Christmas card I decided to try something completely new, lino block printing. I’d been pinning Christmas card designs for weeks trying to find some inspiration, but nothing was striking the right cord. Then I saw some for sale at at Target that I loved. Navy background with white birch trees and brightly colored ornaments hanging from the branches. Of course I could have ponied up the 7 bucks and just bought them, but where is the fun in that. I make my own cards, it’s my thing. So I needed to figure out how to print them. Thankfully I have an art major for a husband and he was pretty sure I could handle lino block printing.
So I had no clue where to start, but the artsy husband had a pretty good idea of what we needed. Linoleum block, tools for carving, a roller thingy (brayer) for rolling the ink, ink, and cards to print on. We found all this at Dick Blick art supply store, except for the cards, which I bought at Target. Just blank cards with envelopes.
The first step was to cut the linoleum down to the size of my cards and mount it on some plywood. Ryan took care of this for me, as the garage is really not my domain. He said the important part is to use waterproof glue to glue the linoleum to the block.
Next, I had to carve my design. I had extra linoleum, so I had the opportunity to screw up several times. Luckily I didn’t need to. My first attempt worked out. First I drew my design on the lino block in pencil, keeping in mind the final print will be reversed.
Then I had to actually carve out the design. I was printing the navy onto white cards, so I needed to remove the material I wanted to be white. There are two types of lino zip carving tools, push and pull type. Apparently the pull type are suppose to be safer, no jamming sharp knives into your fingers. But I liked the push type better. Ryan made me a “shoe” to keep the block from moving away as I pushed, saving my fingers. I set it on a piece of rug padding to keep it from sliding around the table.
The tool consists of a handle with interchangeable carving tips in different shapes. I found it easiest to use the sharp “v” to carve the outline of my design, then remove the inside with the wide flat one. It took some trial and error to find what worked best for me and my design.
But eventually I got the whole thing carved out.
Now the fun part, printing. First Ryan helped me do a proof, just to see what the printed image looked like, so I could carve any spots that needed additional carving. I actually thought it looked pretty good. I just needed to clean up the bottom a bit so there was enough space to stamp Merry Christmas.
To do the real printing, we mixed up some navy ink by combining black, blue and white. We did this on a mirror that Ryan uses as his pallet when he paints, but any tray would work. The ink we used was water based so clean up wasn’t a problem.
So then I rolled the brayer in the ink, then rolled the ink on the block. Then I placed the card on the block and rubbed it with the back of the spoon to make sure the card came in good contact with the block.
Then very carefully peel the card off the block and see how it came out. The first one was quite exciting. Then I had to do 49 more. I would roll the block between each card, but only re-ink every 5 cards are so. You could tell when the printing was getting kind of “snowy” that I needed more ink.
I left them to dry overnight, because it was like 11 pm when I finished printing them, but they really didn’t take long to dry. The next day I hand painted the ornaments on each card using acrylic paint.
Next, I stamped the saying on the inside of the cards. Shh… don’t tell anyone it is the same saying as the cards I sent out 3 or 4 years ago. I didn’t bother to buy new stamps. I did go out and find navy ink. I thought it went nicely with the navy ink on the front and then I signed our names in red so it was all matchy-matchy.
So there you have it, lino block print Christmas cards. All in all I am very pleased with how they turned out, especially since it was my first time printing anything. On some of the cards the ink was a bit thick, and I should have cleaned off the block every several printings, since the once at the end weren’t as sharp as the first ones, but I’m my own worst critic. The process itself was pretty simple, especially since I had Ryan who actually knew what he was doing. Now that I have all the supplies, I’m trying to figure out what I can print next. But it never fails that by next Christmas I’ll come up with something new to try, and the printing supplies will end up in the bin next to the embossing heat gun, and the eyelet setting tools, never to be used again…