Reduction Lino Printing Hints for Beginners

onions reduction lino print 3rd layer

Producing reduction lino prints involves cutting and layering colours from a single lino block to create a multi-coloured, tonal print. Experienced printmakers can make intricately detailed prints but beginners can have just as much fun as you can see from the prints on this page.

If you’re new to printmaking or perhaps need some refresher notes, read on…

Decide your edition size before you start printing.

Once you’ve made the second cutting, there’s no going back to the start.

Make some extra prints for the inevitable mistakes

mayweed reduction print error

You can see in the print above that the paper wasn’t properly registered.

Don’t make it too complicated

sketch for reduction lino print

Start with two or three colours and a simple design.

Sketch your ideas first and work out your colour sequence (from light to dark). Some people transfer the whole of their design onto the lino while others prefer to transfer only the areas they need to cut away for that layer of ink. Whichever method you use, mark it accurately making sure you know which areas are to be cut.

cutting lino block
The first areas cut out are those that are to remain white. The first inking is of the lightest colour and the second cut removes any areas that will remain this lightest colour. Each layer becomes progressively darker.

Use a registration system

registration system for lino printing
Using a registration system will ensure each print is in the same place on your paper. A simple way is to lay a piece of paper the same size as your printing paper on the table, centre your lino block on it and trace around the lino. This pencilled area is where you will position your lino (ink side up) for each print. You might find that sticking small pieces of card to the backing sheet instead of using pencil lines stops the lino slipping.

Ink your lino block

reduction lino onions inked

Roll a small amount of ink on your palette, coating the roller until the ink sounds tacky. Rolling quickly helps the ink stick to your roller.

Ink your lino with slow strokes making sure you have an even coating.

Print your lino block


Place your inked lino in the pencilled area of your registration sheet. Lay the printing paper on top of the lino making sure that the corners of the printing paper and registration paper match up. Put a small arrow on the back of each sheet of paper so that you lay it down the right way up.

You don’t need a fancy press for lino printing. Use a roller, wooden spoon or baren to firmly press across the surface of your paper. Lift a corner to check that you’ve covered the whole print.

When you’ve printed Colour 1 (light brown in the print above), clean your plate and cut out any areas that you want to remain Colour 1.

Ink your plate with Colour 2 (mauve above) take a test print on a spare piece of paper to make sure you’ve cut correctly and then print on top of Colour 1, remembering to line up your paper on your registration sheet. You can see above that the mauve has overprinted the light brown.

Clean your plate and cut out any areas that you want to remain Colour 2. The uncut areas will be Colour 3. In the print above this meant that the only uncut lino was the black outline and frame. Test print and then print over Colours 1 and 2.

Congratulations! You now have a three colour print.

Most importantly, have fun!



You might also be interested in:

Setting up a Home Printmaking Studio Space

Learn how to make Monoprints using a Jelly Plate

Printmaking Inspiration: Spring

Printmaking Classes at Slamseys










reduction lino printing for beginners