This poster might be my favourite thing that we made for the house tour. It is not your average diy, but then again, it could always be simplified. I was warned a head of time… ‘Just do a small 3×5 to make sure you get what you’re after before investing 10+ hours carving’ – but hey, thats not how I roll.
On a scale of 1-10, I would give this a 7 or 8. Not only just for difficulty, but for supplies and steps. Again, simplifying, downsizing and improvising (materials) is always an option.
Step one: Figure out your design. I knew I was going for the vintage play bill, 50s woodblock poster design. I looked at inspiration to find appropriate language etc, for my ‘one night only’ band. Once you have your artwork figured out, you will need to transfer it, in reverse, onto the surface that you are carving. This photo also shows a fatal step. I started with a piece of maple. This was a BAD idea. The wood itself was just too hard and not carving-friendly. I abandoned that in the first ten minutes of carving and moved on to a scrap piece of linoleum from the Re-Store.
Step two: Get to carving! This part was long and tedious. But goes by faster when you can break up your time carving large areas like big letters (makes your arms sore) and then switching to small areas like Santa’s beard (makes your fingers sore).
Step 3: Step back and admire it. It was dark when I finished, hence the poor quality photo. Sorry.
Step four: This the fun part. I used rubber based letterpress ink, but you could use any type of relief ink. Just not paint – It will dry too quickly and you’ll have parts that won’t transfer to the paper, as well, you won’t be able to clean it off of your block, because it is dry.
I did a small test patch here, just to show you how your paper choice will affect your print.
Here is the first test print. Since we are doing this all by hand (no presses) I have just put a piece of paper over the block, and rubbed it with a wooden spoon. It takes quite a bit of elbow grease, but that’s it!
This is a heavier, grittier piece of drawing paper, almost like watercolour paper. Watercolour paper is usually coated with something so it doesn’t sop up all the water and fall apart while you are painting… this means, not absorbent, and not idea for clean looking relief prints.
This is a comparison of newsprint (left), heavy drawing paper (right). You can really see the differnce in how the newsprint absorbs the ink.
No comes time to ink up the whole block and line up your piece of paper on top. So this picture looks like nothing, but I wanted to show you how you can see the paper absorbing the ink from the backside once you really give it a good rub-down. This also makes it easier to see the places where you maybe haven’t rubbed enough. No worries, you can always peek and see what it is looking it.
Step 4.5: As you’re printing/rubbing, take a look under the paper and see what it is looking it. The Part that says ‘DEC’ I had only done a light rub. Where as the ’25′ I had really gone over. Peeking is allowed, as long as you do small sections at a time and are careful not to shift the paper, and will help you get a nice even print.
Step 5: Peel it off! Carefully, so you don’t touch the paper down anywhere else on the block. Lay it flat to dry. Depending on which type of relief ink you have used, the dying times will be different. In this case, my was dry to the touch after about 30 min, but framable after 24 hrs.
Here he is. In all his glory.