Collection: Color

The Technique of Color Prints

Each color necessitates a separate plate, normally a sheet of linoleum flooring, that is mounted on plywood, sometimes even stapled onto the plywood in the low carved-out areas. The plans for these color prints (mostly linocuts) were usually color sketches, watercolors or gouaches. The process is slightly different than the process for a black and white woodcut or linocut. Here, a piece of tracing paper is overlaid over the color sketch, and each color section is traced on a separate piece of tracing paper. For example, all the yellow sections will be contoured and then the tracing paper with the yellow areas will be flipped and then the transfer to the first linoleum plate will begin. The areas outside the sketched areas will be carved out, as in a woodcut or B&W linocut.  Then, the artist returns to the original color sketch and traces the next to the lightest color, for example orange. All the orange sections will be contoured and transferred to another piece of tracing paper, and this in turn will be flipped and transferred to another linoleum block. This process continues until all contours for each individual color has been traced and transferred onto their own sheets of linoleum. If there are seven colors, there will be seven linoleum blocks. If there are any black areas, they will necessitate an eighth linoleum plate. Printing a color linocut is not an easy process and is extremely laborious. Printing starts with the lightest color. When the lightest color has been printed, the artist hung the prints to dry on a clothesline in the garage. You could not stack color prints, because the large areas of color were stickier than black ink, and if you tried to lay the prints flat with paper in between to absorb any spare ink and prevent transference onto the next print, the paper would transfer to the ink, and everything would be glued together. Hnizdovsky had this happen to one edition, and never again did he make the same mistake! A clothesline crisscrossed the entire garage just for drying color prints. Lining up the next color was not easy. There were no registration marks, no pins, no way to be 100% sure that the next color would line up properly. A good eye was needed, but there will always be plate placement variations between color prints, in placement of the second, third, fourth block, etc. There will also be variations in color, since the color was mixed right before that specific color was printed. For a seven color print, there will be seven separate placements of the paper on the different color plates, always ending with the printing of the darkest color. As a result of all these layers, these prints can be heavier in weight than black and white prints, and need more care when packing. Many of them are printed on heavier paper as well, rather than the normal washi that Hnizdovsky favored for his black and white prints.