The first step in any printing project–really any art project at all I suppose–is sketching out a plan for the project. In printmaking, unless you draw directly on to the block, once you’re happy with your drawing you’ll need to transfer the image over the the block somehow.
Before image transfer I sand the block down slightly with a 250 grit sandpaper block. Once this dries I take a copy of my image on tracing paper and tape the sheet grafite side against the sanded lino block. Being careful to keep the image from shifting transfer the grafite onto the block by directing pressure on the back of the tracing paper–I often use the bottom edge of a lighter but many things will work here.
Once the grafite image is transfered go back over everything with black permanent marker. With the outline complete on the block stain the surface with red ink. Lately I’ve been using Higgins drawing ink, but whatever works is fine. The red stain creates a strong contrast which helps guide you in the carving process.
From here you’re ready to carve out the first layer or, in some cases, the only layer. I tend to work in multiple blocks.
Once the master carving is complete the process for getting the image to any additional blocks is a process I’ll cover in a later post.