Lino printing a colour gradient is a great way to add some interesting colour treatments to your linocut designs. I’m no expert at getting a perfect gradient of inks mixed but I wanted to share this as a really quick post to show you all how I mix inks into a colour gradient. The main trick (and one that is really difficult to master) is not to over do it when mixing the inks. You want a really nice clean blend of inks, not a sludgy mix of inks.
I decided that I wanted to add a gradient to one of my diving whale prints. The gradient would make up the background layer and then I’d overprint a black layer with all the details. I wanted the gradient to go from a dark ocean blue to an almost transparent tone of that colour so I mixed Emerald Green, Cobalt Blue and Black for my ocean colour and squeezed out a blob of Transparent Extender to blend this into. This would hi-light the depth of the ocean water and add some colour to the composition.
By cutting out a rectangular piece of lino that matched the size of my print, I was able to place this next to where I intended to roll out the colour gradient and get a measurement of how long the colour blend needs to be.
Using a palette knife, I begin by spreading out my ocean colour ink on the left and my extender on the right. Then you just start to roll out the ink. If anything I used too much ink, try to use less than I did on the image above (you can see that the ink is too thick on the glass). I’d also recommend using a roller with a larger circumference than the roller I used here. These smaller circumference rollers are not that great in my opinion. I’d always recommend a roller that is around 150mm in circumference, instead of 100mm circumference pictured. It doesn’t sound like much but it makes a difference believe me.
Once the ink starts to get evenly rolled out, lift the roller and place it back down an inch to the left or right. Then roll up, and again lift the roller and place it back down an inch back to the left. Repeat this, slowly varying the extent to which you move the roller up to the left or the right.
The extender ink seemed to resist the ocean colour ink I mixed, so I had to actually blend this more than I wanted and this started to mean that I lost some of the definition of the blend from dark to light tones of ink.
The final blend was not as smooth as I had wanted (but then Draw Cut Ink Press is about sharing all the trials and tribulations of the lino printing process!) but I did get a blend of dark to light.
The final step was to roller the ink on my lino before printing. If I had had a roller that was as long as the piece of lino I would not have had the banding at the right hand side of the lino that you can see above. This is why I’d say it is good to have a really good selection of larger rollers. However, if you look at the left hand side you can see the deep dark ocean blue that definitely gets lighter towards the right. I wasn’t too worried about the banding as I thought this would potentially add to the image where the banding would sit alongside the waves that would be printed on the second layer.
So, lino printing a colour gradient. Below are some of the results; I took a quick photo of some of the work in progress, and one of the final prints. I really like to experiment, and on the print on the right you can see some white areas where I wiped off some of the gradient ink before running it through the etching press.