I have known for years about the relief technique known as Reduction Printing, but I had never tried it before. Over the past several weeks I have had my first go. In normal relief printmaking one color is printed from one plate. To produce a multi-colored image multiple plates are required, but in this technique several colors can be printed from a single plate. After one color is printed parts of the plate are reduced, by carving them away before the next color is printed.
Of course this requires that everything be very well registered. Easier said than done. As usual, I chose a rather complicated design to begin with. I seem to do that to myself time and again. I designed an image that would require five colors, plus white. The first step, before beginning the printing process, was to carve out the areas what were to remain white, in this case, the poppy flowers. The plate was then entirely inked and printed in yellow, leaving only the white areas.
Next, all the areas that were to remain yellow were carved out before printing with the second color, a light blue. Each color is printed on top of the previous one with more and more areas carved out each time. Generally one prints from light to dark. As the colors mix on the plate they influence one another.
It is a fun process, although you definitely have to concentrate at each step as it is somewhat thinking backwards. We made a registration jig for both the cutting and the printing. It worked fairly well, but definitely not perfectly. With so many passes, there is a lot of scope for error at every turn.
We printed 40 sheets but in the end only 16 are really worthy to put into my Etsy Shop for sale.
Rick is always happy to help me in the process of making prints. I do the image making and he does the printing. Usually we use our press, but in this case we printed each one by hand with a baren.
As the print progresses, the image gradually reveals itself. It’s quite exciting, but the process is long and laborious. Each color took a couple of hours to print and several days to dry. Carving the plate each time took hours and hours as well.
At the end what you have is a plate that is almost all cut away. My last color was a deep purple that made the background and some outlines. Once the print is finished there is no going back.
I’m working on a companion piece in order to take advantage of the learning that took place through the long process.