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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Printing Under Pressure

There are multiple ways to print a lino block. At its simplest, the process is about applying pressure on the back of the paper which has been laid over the inked surface of the block. A baren or any other smooth palm-sized rounded object—even a wooded spoon—will do. This method is simple and affordable, but slow and painstaking.

The RMIT studio has several Albion presses designed for printing relief.

These Nineteenth Century presses apply a vertical downward pressure over the surface of the block. The printing mechanism is ideal, because the paper and the block are pushed together in a single action. There’s no tendency for them to slip against each other and spoil the alignment of the print. On the other hand, they were designed for commercial use at the time of the Industrial Revolution, before operator health and safety considerations were well developed, so they can be tough on the printmakers body. Apart from that, the area of even pressure in the middle of the press bed is much smaller than the size of the press.

Even the largest presses in our studio can only print to A4 size consistently. My print is larger than that, so using the Albion press is not an option.

For the A3 sized piece of lino I will be using for my print, the best option is to use one of the etching presses. Here the pressure is applied via a roller which squeezes the inked print matrix and paper together against the mobile bed of the press. For printing relief, the press is set much more lightly than for printing intaglio, with the roller just skimming the surface of the printing blanket which sits over the paper. Even so, there is some tendency for the paper to shift a little or stretch under pressure against the inked block.

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