Every year since 1994, I've made Christmas cards using either linoleum block printing or screenprinting. Until 2007, I did all the production by hand which was extremely time consuming and labor intensive. In 2007, I purchased a small etching press from Dick Blick to finally streamline the process! (much to the dismay of my right arm, which looked forward to the pain and muscle-building process every holiday season).
This year, I'm using the press to print my first set of cards for non-Christmas purposes and I wanted to blog about the process for everyone who asks me how I do it. The cards are a set of five animals, to be auctioned as a fundraiser for the Madagascar Fauna Group in conjunction with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's 2009 Prosimian Husbandry Workshop. The prints are one-color (black), so there won't be any discussion about registering multiple colors.
I start with a photograph manipulated in Photoshop for size/color. I print it out at the proper size (the card image this time will be 1/4 the size of a 8.5x11 in slice of paper - so 4.25x5.5 and there will be five, two landscape, three portrait). Then I gather the necessities: music (most important - carving and printing MUST be done to good music!), linoleum block (I use Dick Blick's golden lino sheets, they're easier to cut than battleship gray linoleum and they don't seem to harden over time), lino cutters (speedball makes a set of 5 cutters with handles) and carbon paper to offset the image to the block:
The next step is to offset the image onto the paper and start carving. I usually start with the most interesting and intricate area, so if I screw up the carving, I can start over without too much time lost. For animals, this translates into: start with the face.
Here is the progression described above:
In my next blog I'll show the five finished blocks and the printing process. Now I have to go buy paper. My favorite paper for printing cards is called Stonehenge and it comes in several neutral colors. It's heavy 100% cotton acid-free paper and I can tear it to any size. I don't use the already cut and deckled-edge card stock, mainly because I want the finished piece to be a frame-able piece of fine art disguised as a greeting card.