Relief Printmaking Handouts

Submitted by: Sue Galos, retired art teacher from St. Clair Secondary School, Ontario, Canada

Title: Relief Printmaking

Grade Level: High School



  • Relief printing: A form of printmaking in which only the raised areas of the blocks are printed.

  • Plate: The surface on which the image is prepared. It can be wood, stone, linoleum, or a variety of other materials like cardboard.

  • Safety Kut: A type of Linoleum which can be used on both sides.

  • Gouge: The tool used for carving away the negative shape in your design. It comes with a variety of different blades.

  • Brayer: The rolling device used to spread ink onto the plate and then onto the block.

  • Baren: A circular tool used to transfer ink onto paper by friction.

  • Edition: The total number of identical prints (or copies) made from one image.

Signing the Print

Each print is signed in pencil along the bottom edge under the inked portion. On the left side you place the edition number. The first print out of three will have the fraction 1/3 on the left side, the second print will have 2/3, and the third will have 3/3. In the center you place the title of the design and on the right-hand side you sign your name. All of this information must start and stop directly underneath the print and not hang out on either side.



Richard Mock

"Hemingway in Africa"

Richard Mock

"Massacre of Innocence"


Linocut: Relief Printmaking

Linoleum cut (Linocut): A relief technique popularized by Matisse and Picasso in the 20th century. In this technique, a thin block of linoleum is mounted on wood. The artist then uses a sharp instrument to cut away the linoleum. Only the higher areas of linoleum are inked and printed, not the areas that have been cut away.


A good design would have a wide variety of line types and strong contrast between thicknesses lf line. The examples below show good balance between the lines (positive shape) and the white spaces (negative shape).



"Whirling Fish"

"The Cat"


In your notebook, create an image to fit a 4" x 5" (10 x 12.7 cm) rectangle, making sure that the lines in your image are done in solid black pencil as in these examples. Don't use lettering and try to keep your design interesting by making lots of patterns in the background.


You can use ideas from cartoons or magazines. You might want to illustrate a favorite hobby such as shown in "Whirling Fish" or a favorite pet like "The Cat" by Cinat pictured below:


You could also create an abstract design that uses interesting patterns and lines like the ones you created in the design package at the start of the semester.


The Process:

  • Once your design has been approved, it will be transferred to the block of Safety Kut linoleum by turning it face down and rubbing the back with a popsicle stick.

  • The negative space (white) will be cut away using gouges. Correct safety procedures will be demonstrated once the process has begun.

  • Ink will be spread on a plastic plate and then transferred to the block with a brayer.

  • A sheet of paper is laid on top of the inked plate and a baren is rubbed in a circular motion on top of this to transfer the ink to the paper. This is called "pulling" the print.

  • After you make an edition of three prints in black ink, you may experiment printing in a variety of colors.



The Printmaking Bible - The definitive resource to the ins-and-outs of every variety of serious printmaking technique practiced today. In-depth instructions are accompanied by profiles that show how working artists create their prints. Historical information, troubleshooting tips, and an extensive resource section provide more invaluable tools.


Printmaking Unleashed: More Than 50 Techniques for Expressive Mark Making - Features 60+ step-by-step demonstrations and countless possibilities for creating original prints, fabrics, art journal pages, mixed-media collage, and so much more.


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