Monday, October 10, 2011

Test Print with Black Block

In a future post, I will try to do a proper introduction of my press. I did not realize that I had not done this until half way through this particular post.

The first block I decided to carve was the black one. I am glad I chose to do this first because it was extremely tedious and detailed. Apologies for the poor image quality.

To carve this, I used a variety of both Japanese and European style gouges. I will try to post pictures of them in my next post. It is not necessary to carve very deep since the roller does not typically deposit ink into carved areas. You will see the exception to this in the test print below.

Here's a picture of the printing supplies. To the right is a sheet of glass that the ink will be spread onto with a paint knife. Knead the ink with the knife until it becomes more pliable. Afterwards, the ink is gathered with the knife and arranged in a strip across the top of the glass. From there, the roller is used to bring small amounts of ink from the strip down onto the lower portion of the glass. Roll the roller quickly until the ink is consistently distributed on the roller.

From there, slowly roll the roller across the surface of the carved block. It may be necessary to do several passes depending on how much ink is on the roller, how big your roller is, and how big your block is. In the above image, ink has been rolled onto the block, but more is needed to fill in the more splotchy areas. Once the block is inked up, I place a sheet of newsprint over the image. I intend to use nice paper in the final edition, but as a test, newsprint works just fine.

Over the paper, felt blankets are laid down. As far as I know, they serve as cushions to help buffer the pressure of the press. In the above image, I have a corner lifted up so that you can see the layers. Typically, three different blankets are used, but for this I only used two.

The next step is to find an appropriate pressure so that the ink will transfer onto the paper when rolled through the press. When the lever is pulled down, the roller under the print bed (the black board) is raised so that the bed and the printing block are pressed against the top roller. If there is not enough pressure between them, the top roller can be lowered by turning the middle knob.

There is no need to worry with the two smaller outside knobs, if they do not interfere with adjustment of the roller. They are used when doing intaglio prints.

I typically like to start feeling resistance in the lever when it reaches the point pictured above. To operate the press, the lever must be pulled down all the way.

Once an appropriate pressure has been found, hold the switch in the direction the print bed needs to go. When doing relief prints, one may choose to roll the block through one way, then go back the other. I did not feel this was necessary in this instance.

Gently remove the blankets. Then gently take the edge of the paper and pull it up and off to see the print!


I am very pleased with this test print. From what I can tell, it is very close to the computerized version. There are a few areas which I forgot to carve, so I will go back in later to do those small bits. The lighter area of the peahen is probably due to me not being consistent with the ink I rolled onto the block and can be easily fixed when it comes time to get serious. Some areas in the sky and on the stage that were supposed to be white caught some ink from the roller because they are fairly large areas. For now, I will leave them alone to see how they look with the other two colors. If I do not like it, I can either try to carve the areas out more or (for the sky) I can make what is called a frisket to cover over the inked area to keep it from printing.


  1. That's a fantastic job you did on the black block i must say! I love the detail shots of the carved surface. And the print test looks just great. I was wondering, what's the exact size of the print? How did you chose this size? Was it determined basically by these blank blocks you've been buying? Or is it the detail precision you want to have in the carving which determine it?
    It might sounds like a dumb question, like, maybe you just decided its size when drawing the digital version; but i know i always kinda have this issue to choose the right size of a digital canvas. So i think it's even harder to choose an appropriate size as for when it comes to the carving and all. Or maybe you're just used to it, and intuitively choose the right size to work with?

  2. The print size is 18.125"x 28.5"(46 x 72.4 cm). I chose this size because it fits on a standard sheet of Rives BFK paper (22" x 30"), but still allows me to have a comfortable margin. Also, I do not want to do a lot of paper trimming since it leads to waste.