Agate linocut (three-block linocut)

The aim of this project was to create a print from three separate lino blocks. For the subject matter I chose an agate. I wanted to do something a bit more abstract for this one; my tutor encouraged me to do more abstract pieces after reviewing those in the monoprints assignment.Not sure i really got there though!

Here’s the best final print:

Agate Linocut Print

Planning and cutting

I looked at many beautiful images of agates, as well as a couple in my own little collection of  stones collected when I was little. I made just a couple of sketches/plans and settled on the blue one – planning for two blue layers and a final black one. (In retrospect this actually looks more like a good candidate for a reduction print).

1. I traced the image onto Block1 and cut away the areas that were to stay white.

2. I inked the block and pressed it onto paper (lining up the paper correctly so that registration would be right) then immediately pressed the (blank) Block2 onto the paper to transfer the image over. The result wasn’t great – a bit blurry – but it gave me enough to go on and a bit more tracing added detail.

3. I cut Block 2, cutting away all the white areas as before, plus all the areas to stay light blue.

At this stage, I made a mistake – the tool slipped and sliced straight through an area that was supposed to be left blue. I tried a technique I’d read about somewhere and just used a scalpel to cut out the offending piece, then cut out a matching replacement piece and stuck it on with pva glue… (wasn’t sure if this would really work but it was fine with a bit of extra pressure during printing).

4. I repeated the stage from step 2, this time transferring the image onto Block3.

5. I cut Block 3, this time cutting away everything except the black bits.


6. Now… printing and registration. Hmmm. I had read  this great article ( on the fabulous Brush and Baren site about a linocut jig, and used this as inspiration to cobble something temporary together at home from an old kids’ blackboard, various scraps of stiff cardboard and some glue. It worked! (Kind of…… will definitely need to get a better one made up). But during printing I had to make a few adjustments as I discovered the positioning of image on the 2nd block was just a little off. Cue much tearing of hair but eventually got a couple of reasonable prints.

The blocks printed separately


After this project I am even more in awe of printmakers like Robert Gillmore who create incredibly intricate, subtle, beautiful prints using the multi-block technique. I found the registration tricky, as always, and the final print was a bit flatter than I’d hoped. For further improvement  I could tidy some of the layers up and perhaps some more detail in the form of more white rings.

In retrospect I also should have chosen a design that used a mix of colours – using two blues is a bit safe and doesn’t explore some of the advantages of this method, which is the ability to use completely independant colours.


One response to “Agate linocut (three-block linocut)

  1. It’s a while since you’ve shown us new printmaking. I’ve just had a month where I’d done little except planning for the next print – life taking over?

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