Reduction linocut, part 1

I wanted to look at ways of planning a reduction linocut using art apps on the computer. I’ve previously done some prep in ArtRage using a rubber as a cutting tool into different layers of colour; all without actually translating the work into a print though – will try that again some time. No, this time, I had the idea of translating a B&W photograph into the cuts required for a reduction linocut with 4-5 layers of grey.

I started with a b&w version of a photograph I’d taken in Byron Bay, Queensland, of some sort of lizard, about 70cm or 80cm long, sunning itself after a deluge on the roof just opposite my motel unit. I was really hoping he wasn’t going to try coming into my room even though the motel owner had said they were harmless.


I didn’t find out at the time what type he/she was but, after some research just now, suspect it was an Eastern Water Dragon, at least that is the closest resemblance I’ve found.

I’d already created a reversed b&w image which I loaded into Photoshop.


Now I needed to separate out the image into a set of grey ranges. I searched on ways to separate out tonal ranges and found that the menu option Select / Color Range worked when I Selected Shadows, set the Fuzziness to 0 and then used the Range value to select tones from deep black to lightest grey. Here’s what the screen looks like when selecting a Range of 15, the lowest I went for, and 175, the highest (in retrospect, I ought to have used a much higher value at the top end, 225 say, to isolate only a little white instead of the vast expanse I ended up with):

range15 range175

I used Quick Mask in the Selection Preview so the unselected bits showed in red/pink. The other levels used were 40, 75 & 120.

Each of these selections I copied into a new image and saved it as a psd file. I then opened each of these files and changed the Output Levels to have a range of 0-0 so that all of the areas to be cut showed as white and that to be left as black:

black cut

r2-darkgrey r3-midgrey r4-lightgrey

white cut

Each was exported as a jpeg (middle three images above) to be printed at A5 size.

I also wanted to see what the final image might look like. I created a new image in Photoshop the same size as all the above then copied the image and levels layers from each (using the Duplicate Layers option) into that. I then had to make sure each levels layer only applied to the image by setting the Properties and clipping the mask to only the layer below (I’d forgotten how to do this and had to look up a tutorial).

I then reset the levels for each layer to a suitable grey level; not, as it turned out, the levels I’d used to select the regions. I ended up using levels 200, 160, 120, 90 & 15. Each image layer was set to blend mode ‘Multiply’ (I’ve still no idea what all the blend modes mean but this one works: here’s a tutorial that discusses it). This gave an image that I thought would look ok as a print:


I then printed the b&w jpegs of each layer separately and used white Tracedown paper to transfer the first, white areas, to an A5 size piece of lino.

lino white cut

As can be seen, there’s way too much white to be cut away. I’ll look to cut the large parts of white on the tiles pretty roughly so that some of it picks up the light grey that’ll be used as the first colour.

Part 2 will be the cutting and printing of these. LPW is still closed for the big move so I’ll be printing by hand at home onto printer paper. Still, this was only ever going to be an experiment. We’ll see what happens after this is done.

Posted on October 18, 2015, in Printmaking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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