Author Archives: Klara Vith

CMYK RGB HEX PMS? Colour Spaces and Printmaking

This post briefly introduces the two colour modes CMYK and RGB before moving on to the Pantone Matching System. It will then touch on mixing colours in the printmaking and letterpress workshops at LCC. It is meant as a small guide to help you decide when to use which colour mode and how to go about mixing the perfect shade in a print workshop.

Graph showing additive colour mixing on the left: Overlapping circle of blue, red and green. The overlaps are cyan, magenta, yellow and white. On the right, subtractive colour mixing: three overlapping circles in cyan, magenta and yellow. The overlaps form green, red, blue and black.

RGB is an additive colour space. The overlap of its three primary colours, Red, Green and Blue, results in white. This is because the RGB model is based on three light rays which are projected onto a surface.

CMYK, on the other hand, is a subtractive colour space. The combination of its primary colours, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, results in ‘black’ – or rather, a dark, muddy brown. The K in CMYK stands for Key, referring to the key colour or plate.

On Screen

A monitor or TV screen generates three colors of light: red, green and blue. The different colors we see are due to different combinations and intensities of these three primary colors. This means that RGB is used for anything displayed on a screen, so if you are preparing images and colours for websites, they should be in this mode. It has the added benefit of reducing your file size, because it contains one colour channel less. We will take a quick look at channels a little bit further down.

When you import images from your phone, camera or a scanner, they will by default be set to RGB. Most printers, including your standard home printers, can interpret RGB data. They will convert and output it as CMYK, but this will usually lead to duller colours. In order to have control over your printed output, always convert your images and files before printing – ideally while before designing! You can check and change your colour space in Adobe Photoshop under Image > Mode.

Hexadecimals, which you may have come across in web design, are basically shorthand for RGB. A hexadecimal is made up of a hashtag and six character. The first two characters stand for red, the third and fourth for green, and the last two for blue. Values range from 0-9, followed by A-F. F is the most light, while 0 represents the least: so #ffffff equals white, and #000000 equals black. 

Adobe Photoshop Colour picker showing Web Colours and a hexadecimal value of 0000ff, which is intense 100% blue.
Adobe Photoshop Colour Picker for web colours, showing #0000FF

In Print

Digital printing and offset lithographic printing predominantly use CMYK for standard four-colour printing. Modern printers like for example the HP Indigo additionally use orange, violet and white.

All visible colours are made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The four colours are printed in detailed patterns of differently sized dots to create the illusion of all colours. When you look closely you can determine the dot sizes and angles at which they are printed.

In order to achieve a real, dark black, designers and printers usually specify a rich black. This is solid black overprinted with a combination of one or all other CMYK primary colours. This can also create hues of warm and cool black.

An image in two halves, the left half shows a print of a succulent plant from an old book. The right half shows an enlarged portion of the plant image, which makes the CMYK halftone pattern visible.
A picture and close up showing CMYK halftones.
Original image from ‘200 House Plants in Colour’, first published 1968 by Zomer & Keuning. Printed offset lithography.
Activating CMYK channels in Adobe Photoshop

The distribution, size and angles of these dots matter. A standard combination of angles is Yellow at 0° or 90°, Black at 45°, Magenta at 75° and Cyan at 15°. When two colors are less than 30º apart there is a risk of moiré. There are lots of resources on the internet about different dot types and screen angles, for example on The Print Guide.

CMYK is not exclusive to digital and lithographic printing – in fact CMYK colour separations, or approximations where they are replaced with slightly or wildly different colours, are common in screen printing, risograph printing and even photo etching. 

The angles you may need for CMYK screen printing or photo etching can depend on additional factors such as your screen mesh, as the wrong angles could lead to Sawtoothing:

Four rectangular boxes of dots. The boxes are angled in increasing increments of 10°. The box on the right shows and uneven edge.
The edge of the last box shows sawtoothing. Image from The Print Guide.

Below are two pieces of work by our own specialist screen print technician Lisa Chappell. Lisa works with four-colour printing across many processes.

Small landscape image with rounded corners. The images shows a four colour photo etching of dark grounds with a sunset.
In Between (2019), photo etching, Lisa Chappell
View of the sky with clouds and sunlight and the reflection of a car. The image is the shape of a side mirror.
Road Trip (2019), screen print, Lisa Chappell

RGB in Print?

There is research into recreating RGB imagery in printmaking, for example using Spectraval pearlescent pigments by Merck Group. These are suitable for screen, gravure and flexo printing. Red, blue and green are overprinted on black to create lighter shades where they overlap.

Pantone Matching System

The Pantone Matching System is a numbering system for colours in graphic design. This system is widely used to define solid colours, for what is also knows as spot printing. In this process, a single colour is formulated rather than mixed by overprinting CMYK. 

There are plenty of reasons why you might use Pantone colours:

  • For more colour accuracy when printing, especially across different jobs, or when different printers being used
  • To define specific brand colours that can always be accurately reproduced through spot colour printing
  • Pantone allows for bright and bold, saturated colours; even neons, pastels and metallics
  • You can colour match accurately across other Pantone Systems – for example for textiles

The Pantone Formula Guides, or fans, are an international go-to reference for colour specification and verification. Each colour swatch has a specific name and recipe, which tells you the base colours it is mixed from. This is what we use in the printmaking workshops to determine how to achieve that perfect shade.

a fanned out Pantone Swatch Book showing neon colours: Pantone 809c, 810C, 811C.
Close-up of the PANTONE Pastels and Neons Swatch book showing recipes.

If you work a lot in inDesign and prepare books for print, my main tip is to set up a Preflight profile that checks for allowed colour spaces and image resolution. That way, you can check the entire document in an instant. I have one set up for print, and one for digital publishing, where only RGB is allowed. You can choose to only allow spot colours for example, if you are defining only Pantones for a print job.

Screenshot from Indesign with the Preflight panel opened
Screenshot from Indesign with Preflight Profiles opened showing a profile called Print. It specifies Color Spaces and Modes Not Allowed: RGB and LAB

Mixing Pantone colours for printmaking

When mixing colours for printing, there are several things that will affect your mix:

  • The type of inks. Oil based and water based inks will require different recipes
  • The mixing medium. in screen printing for example, this will determine the opacity of your ink
  • The printing method. How thick is your layer of ink going to be?
  • The substrate. What you are printing onto? Is it absorbent, like uncoated paper or fabric? Is it glass? Is it light or dark?
  • The lighting in the room will affect how you view colour. Remember ‘the dress’ that went viral?
  • How new is your reference Pantone swatch? If it has been exposed to light and is old, its colour will not be accurate anymore.
A grid of colour swatch tests with their respective Pantone colours.

All of these factors mean that the recipe can only get you so far. To accurately mix your colour, always mix a small amount first until you have your formula right. That way you won’t waste a lot of ink and you will be able to keep your mix simple more easily.

Keep testing as you go along. The easiest way to do this is to have a small sample of your substrate ready. Dip your little finger into the ink you have mixed and then dab it onto the substrate. Keep dabbing your finger, so the ink layer thins out, as this will represent your final outcome more closely. 

Shelves underneath the galley proofing press in letterpress, showing tins of Saphira Pantone inks.
Pantone base inks in the letterpress workshop at LCC

The letterpress workshop at LCC uses the same inks as offset lithographic printing. Our range is called Saphira by Heidelberg, and the workshop stocks all the base colours you need for mixing any Pantone shade.

The Print Guide

Print Curiosities: No. 6 – Valley II by Todd Snap

Pokemon Snap graphic of a turquoise waterfall between rocks viewed from below under a purple sky.
Valley II, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019

Some may recognise this image from the cult Nintendo game Pokémon Snap. It is one of a set of three risograph prints I bought from publisher Bronze Age in London last year. 

The prints are part of a 4-piece edition accompanying the artist publication Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. According to Bronze Age’s description of the publication, in Acts of Natural Magik ‘The world renowned Pokégrapher turns away from the craft that shaped his career, instead creating a portrait of Pokémon Island; an island of intrinsic and fragile beauty.’ 

Low-resolution graphic of a person with a camera and red hair, crouching on the ground taking a photograph off screen
Todd Snap in action

The images document the island’s varied landscapes and infrastructure, void of its Pokémon inhabitants. Instead, it is full of dramatic, low-resolution pixelated scenery and sunsets. 

Printed on a Risograph MZ 770, the early-age digital colour palette is perfectly reproduced by overprinting just four colours. 

Blue Pokemon Snap graphic of the view from inside a cave up towards an opening with a waterfall.
Cave III, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019

The Risograph is a digital stencil duplicator. Each colour is printed separately, either from a greyscale digital file or a direct scan. It automatically converts images to half-tones, which results in a naturally grainy print. Sparser dots result in different levels of opacity. The transparency of the soy- and rice bran-based inks make it ideal for overprinting to create different colours.

The stencils are thin and flimsy, and the printing is fast. Both of these factors cause slight differences in registration, resulting in prints with small variations. In Acts of Natural Magik, this appearance brings to mind glitching in computer and console games. The grain of the print echoes the sharp pixel edges of low-resolution artwork, and the bright, mock CMYK colour separation emphasises the 8-bit colour palette of the original image.

Pokemon Snap graphic of bright red lava and a volcano under a yellow sky
Volcano III, 280 x 214 mm, 4-colour Risograph print, 2019
Loupe on top of a risograph print, showing dot distribution.
Volcano III through a loupe

The publication and print editions were printed by Pagemasters. They are a small print studio based in New Cross in London and offer an affordable and high-quality Risograph printing service using only recycled or FSC-certified uncoated papers.

Technicians Rahel Zoller and Daniel Fletcher collaborated with Pagemasters during a remote risograph colour separation and book binding workshop for LCC students.

Publication cover in two tones of dark blue with the text Acts of Natural Magik and Todd Snap in gold
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age.
Spread of a publication showing Pokemon Snap graphic of a gravel road stretching towards an orange horizon
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age
Spread with two Pokemon Snap images of gates on a river
Acts of Natural Magik by Todd Snap. Published by Bronze Age

Acts of Natural Magik is currently available in its third edition from Bronze Age – Undercurrents in international publishing. On their website you will find a wealth of affordable artist publications. Bronze Age was founded in 2011 in London and shares its founder Justin and studio space with Pagemasters.

Images of publication cover and full-bleed prints courtesy of Bronze Age.

Matching typeface and paper

When working on a project in print, you will decided on a typeface or more. This choice can depend on the overall aesthetic of a project, its historical context or any other conceptual reasons. There are endless design decisions that can influence it. The same is true for the choice of paper. Its texture and surface play an important role, and so does content. Colour photography may look more brilliant on coated stock, but uncoated paper can emphasize monochrome imagery just as well. But there is also a decision that can be made regarding the combination of type and paper.

A book spread with a page of text on yellowish paper on the left, and a monochrome image on slightly more white paper on the right.
This spread illustrates the use of two paper stocks within one book: uncoated for the main body text, and coated for plates and small, italic serifs.

Not every paper stock suits every typeface. On the contrary – often, typefaces for letterpress would have been designed to compensate for relief impression into paper. Nowadays it is rare that typefaces are designed taking this compensation into account, but optical considerations remain the same. 

Letterpress printed text detailing the font and paper it was set in
Font and paper choice in a letterpress project. Baskerville was designed in the 18th century and suits older printing presses and printmaking papers well.

One way to go is to group old with old, and modern with modern, based on historical usage:

“(…) that Transitionals and Didone groups of ‘moderns’ are best printed on the calendered surfaces which were developed to show off their elegance when they were first designed during the 18th century; and that art paper is not generally suitable for highly refined Didone faces because it accentuates the stroke contrast of these ‘moderns’, producing an effect of ‘dazzle’ which reduces their legibility.” (Warford, 1971) It is also worthy to note that some typefaces were only designed when more modern, precise printing presses were available. In the example of Didot, its very fine hairline strokes are prone to crack when printing is not done very carefully without any excess pressure.

The book cloth covering of a vinyl sleeve was printed with wood type or a plate, whereas an additional label was printed from metal type.

Letterpress is meant to be printed with a ‘kiss impression’, which means there is no actual relief impression left in the paper. An uneven surface will not result in an even, flat print. This includes uncoated paper, printmaking and handmade papers as well as book cloth. On those surfaces, small type and thin strokes will vanish. Bolder, larger sizes are more forgiving. Plates are often more suitable as a slightly stronger impression will leave a more even ink coverage, but would potentially damage type. Even with those materials, details will blur and larger, bolder type will bring better results.

Sources and further reading:

Design for Print Production
H. S. Warford
London Focal Press (1971)
Available at the LCC Library

Featured Graduate: Marion Bisserier

Spread of Good Girl type specimen
Offset type specimen showcasing the three styles of Good Girl.

Marion graduated from BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design (GMD) in 2019. She has a passion for type and its potential to visually convey meaning beyond the language it primarily serves. She also enjoys critical writing on typography and graphic design.

1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in art and design?

I’m a French designer who grew up in Amsterdam before I was lucky enough to move to London to pursue my design education. As a kid I was drawing loads in my free time and would get really excited whenever there was a chance to express my creativity at school.

 2.  You worked across multiple print techniques when you were at LCC. How did this influence your practice?

Being introduced to different printing techniques during my time at LCC had several significant impacts on my work. 

One of them being the ability to understand the production side of design. It’s one thing to imagine a design, but it’s whole other skill to make it come to life and stand on its own two feet. Spending time in the different printmaking facilities at LCC has allowed me to understand what each process requires and why they are worth the time and effort. Even if as a graphic designer I’m not really printing things myself now, being aware of how printers work in their respective fields and knowing what is possible but also what is not possible inevitably influences my ideas as a designer.

Another one is more directly related to letterpress, where I developed my understanding and love of typography. Even if InDesign is a great tool, when you open a document it has all of these default features of leading and tracking that you’re kind of tempted to just trust, especially as a student. When working with letterpress, there is no ‘default’ composition – you have to physically make all these decisions yourself and develop your own eye. You discover that not all typefaces are designed to look great at 10pt on 12pt leading with zero kerning. When you are designing a graphic outcome, say a book or a website, having this awareness of how much control you actually have with type alone unlocks so many ideas.

Close-up of a screen printed poster in yellow, black and silver
Detail of screen print promoting events around the image of music at the V&A.

3.  How do you stay up to date and connected in the design world?

I like to go to talks and events, especially the ones where people are relaxed about sharing work in progress or are seeking feedback from the audience like Type Thursday for instance. I find this sort of format very beneficial in the sense that it encourages conversation and makes networking much more organic.

I have also learned that connecting to the design world doesn’t necessarily mean just following famous designers on Instagram and attending their talks, but also nurturing my community of friends who just like me are still figuring their creative career out. In my group of friends from LCC, we’re all exploring a different direction in design and when we meet up, we often talk about things that didn’t go as we’d expected them to. Having that safe space to share your learning experiences with others and to feel supported when things don’t go right is super important.

4.  What does your current work setup look like?

Right now I am self-isolating in France with my family so my current set-up is essentially a desk in the living room with my sketchbook, my pencils and my laptop. Back in London, I have put up prints of people I know or whose work I love which makes me happy and some design books whenever I am tired of the screen. I also have this huge collection of paper scraps I’ve been collecting that I have yet to do something with!

Close up of letterpress printed Good Girl type specimen, black on pink paper
Detail of limited edition letterpress specimen of Good Girl.

 5. Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

Don’t overestimate the limited and precious time you have in these amazing facilities with the technicians. If you want to make something, just listen to yourself and go for it rather than trying to fit into what you perceive the industry expects of you. The right job will come sooner if you are honest with yourself.

6.  Where can we see more of your work?  

You can check out my website (which I’m always tweaking) at or my Instagram at @marionbisserier. 

I’ve recently been interviewed on It’s Nice That, AIGA and Domestika.

A23D: a 3D-printed letterpress font

capital K of the font A23D with a slightly inky surface
A few years after its realisation, A23D is well used and at home at New North Press

A23D is a 3D-printed letterpress font commissioned by Richard Ardagh of New North Press. The font is a prototype, connecting the newest and the oldest forms of print technology, and looking to the future of letterpress in the 21st century.

A project such as this requires expertise at every level. A font needed to be designed for 3D-printing, materials had to be tested. Letterpress is a precise science. A printable surface must be 23.32mm or 0.918″ high – type-high – and withstand the pressure and consistent wear of the printing press and process.

On-screen wireframe of a capital A
Wireframe drawings of A23D

Collaboration is key in a cross-disciplinary undertaking involving old and new technologies as well as the art of type design. When Richard had conceived the project, he approached renowned type designers Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel, of A2-Type, to design a font that ended up referencing the production method of 3D-printing. A23D SOLID became the starting point, and hidden core for the design of the A23D wireframe font.

part of an alphabet of capital letters in the font A23D, a hand is inserting a slug for spacing
The alphabet set up and ready for its first impression

Testing and production of the font was handled by Chalk Studios. Considering the demands set to the finished font, many tests had to be conducted in search for the right process and material. The letters were produced using polyjet 3D-printing, where layers of photopolymer liquids are built up and cured by UV light.

A23D letterpress setup, being inked in fluorescent green
A23D set up on the press bed for the initial specimen posters, designed by A2-Type

Since its creation in 2014, A23D has gone on to win an award for Typographic Excellence from Type Directors Club, New York and has been exhibited at V&A, London and Pompidou Centre, Paris. It has also been used as the basis for live project briefs at Chelsea, LCC and Plymouth art colleges. The font is now part of New North Press’ library and enjoys regular use in print projects.

Watch Adrian Harrison’s video documenting the project below to learn more about the design and production of A23D.

A23D: A 3D-Printed Letterpress Font, film by Adrian Harrison

Ultra Lo-Fi Debossing and Embossing

Embossing from a negative shape
Embossing from a negative shape

Everyone likes a bit of blind embossing and debossing. Not everyone has die cut metal plates and hot foil machinery at home. Luckily, there is a way to do it yourself with cardboard and a bone folder. Basically. This guide will take you through step by step, and at the end you will find two downloadable files with illustrated instructions for you to save or print.

1. Tools and Materials*

  • Paper
  • Cardboard or loo roll
  • Pencil
  • Bone folder
  • Clips
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel

Optional but useful:

  • Carbon Paper
  • Paper masking tape
  • Small paint brush
  • Embossing tool

* Not all of these are essential. You can use loo roll tubes if you don’t have cardboard at hand. Use a bone folder or the tail end of a paint brush to replace embossing tools. Carbon paper, clips and paper masking tape all help with improving the process and end result, but if you do not have access to them, you can still try it.

Tools needed and suggested for debossing
Paper, carbon paper, cardboard, loo roll, pencil, bone folder, small brush, embossing tool, clips, tape, scissors, scalpel.

Prepare your paper by dampening it. For instructions, check out Make at Home: three hacks for better working here. For good results, it is essential that your paper is damp, as it needs to be able to mould easily around your shapes! Printmaking paper with a high cotton content and a maximum weight of about 170gsm will give you the best results. My personal favourite is Zerkall, but you can use Somerset, Fabriano, Japanese paper – try whatever you have lying around. You can find a list of suppliers in the Useful Links sections on the website.

2. Trace your design onto cardboard

The cardboard should be thin enough to cut easily with scissors or a scalpel, but thick enough to give you a visible relief. Bear in mind that your design cannot be too small, or you will not be able to cut it out. Thin lines can be problematic as you will lose detail in the process. Draw your design freehand or use carbon paper to transfer your sketch or print precisely.

Preparing cardboard cut outs

3. Make your relief

First, cut your sketch out of cardboard. If using a scalpel, make sure you use a non-slip cutting mat and a safe cutting ruler. Never cut toward your fingers. I find it easier to cut cardboard with several light cuts rather than force – it is much safer and easier to be precise. Be careful to keep all elements together. The cardboard you cut them out from can be helpful as a guide for positioning them in the right place later.

Do you need to reverse your design?

If you use it right-reading, it will emboss right-reading on the side you are working on, and deboss wrong-reading on the reverse of your paper. The debossed side typically looks nicer because the tools don’t mark it. If you would like the debossed side to be right-reading, flip your cardboard cut outs.

Create your base

On a large sheet of card or paper, mark where your shapes and your paper need to go. If you are planning to for example make a book cover, plan and mark your registration marks now.

Stick your shapes onto this base. If your design is made up of several pieces of card, glue them into the right place first using a bit of PVA or Pritt stick. Then use a large strip of paper masking tape to cover the entire surface. Using a bone folder, carefully press the tape down, tracing your cut out. Make sure there are no creases or overlaps of tape on the surface of your shapes. The tape creates a smoother surface and edges.

4. Deboss/Emboss

Take one sheet of paper out of your stack. Lining it up with your registration marks, if you made any (unlike me), lay it on top of your base. Use clips to secure the paper to the base to ensure it does not move while you are working on it. I started out with one clip and very, very quickly realised that a second clip on the other side was an important thing to have. Small bits of card or paper sandwiched between your printmaking paper and the clips will protect the surface from marking.

First, use your fingers to find the cardboard cut outs underneath the paper and gently start pressing down the paper to make the edges of your design visible. Now switch to a bone folder or other tool with a smooth, round tip. Being very careful, press around the edges of your design. Be gentle, as the paper gets damaged very easily! Use smaller tools for corners and tight spaces, for example the tail end of a small paint brush. Make sure that the tools are smooth and rounded, anything sharp will likely just damage your paper.

This side usually does not look very neat because the tools will mark and change the surface of the paper. The other, debossed side will be the nice one, which is why I flipped my design and stuck it down wrong-reading.

And that’s it! When you are finished, release the clips and flip the paper to reveal the debossed side on the reverse. Flatten and weigh down your paper until it has dried completely.

finished debossing
Finished debossed graphic of Korean syllable blocks

Tips, alternatives and a guide to download

  • Test with small cut offs from paper samples.
  • Take some time to get used to the process and to choose your tools before wasting paper.
  • You can trace the surface of objects instead of cardboard cut outs.
  • Try a negative shape
  • Damp paper is not optional!

Featured Graduate: Noha Salmeen

Noha working in the letterpress workshop at LCC

Noha Salmeen graduated from MA Art Direction in 2019 and is based in Dubai, Bangalore and London. Her graphic design practice is based on curiosity, observation, experimentation, testing, failing and learning.

Tell us about yourself. Have you always been interested in art and design?

I am a graphic designer and design researcher. I believe in forward thinking and design for good. However, that was not how I started off. I was rather nervous when it came to graphic design but the more I learnt the more confidence I got. 

Yes, I have always been interested in art and design. I have always gravitated towards colour and visuals as a child. Art and design was a platform where I could communicate to people. 

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
The image above represents a proof of a paragraph in progress. The end result was a book.
Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
The end result of carefully fixing the paragraph.

How do you integrate print with your design practice?

Print has definitely influenced my design practice. The letterpress as well as the production studio at LCC help in that. I am able to incorporate printing methods within the digital world, which allows for some interesting outcomes. 

Where do you find inspiration?

It really depends on the project I am working on. I usually like to use objects available from my environment and incorporate it. This usually allows me to express different permutations and combinations which leads to an A-ha moment!

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
Two books were created with the process and experiment. 

What are you up to now that you’ve graduated?

I graduated in 2019. Not too far back but since graduation and up until now I have been freelancing with various design studios in Dubai and working as an apprentice with Apple.

Looking back on your time at LCC, what advice would give to yourself, if you could travel back in time?

If I could travel back in time I would tell myself to be kind to myself and if you need help ask for it. My time at LCC was great! As I finally found my passion which is print. But, I lived in my head a lot and was not very vocal about it. LCC is a place to learn. So ask, experiment and be free.

Experimenting with how one is influenced by patience and learning a new skill.
Elements that helped me understand letterpress

See more of Noha’s work at:

Lazy mono printing (and some less lazy upgrades)

Mono print collages

If you enjoy sketches, accidental marks on paper and quick, slightly unpredictable results, this might be a good technique for you. I like it for its immediacy and unexpectedness. I will introduce some variations depending on how messy or organized you want to be and what materials you have available. Feel free to deviate. For some toned-down artistic inspiration, check out Tracey Emin’s early mono prints.

Tools and materials for mono printing

Tools and materials

  • a tile I found
  • a hand roller
  • water-based, non-toxic block printing ink
  • water and kitchen paper to clean
  • paper

No tile? Use a piece of perspex, acrylic or glass (but no shards, please…).

No roller? Use a rectangular piece of thick cardboard to scrape ink across the tile, just like you would use a squeegee.

No block printing ink? Use oil based ink. What is important is that it does not dry too quickly. You can use vegetable oil and kitchen paper to clean it up instead of water. 


Cover your work station in old newspaper or other waste paper (see Ling’s Top Tips for Saving Paper). Now ink up your entire tile. You want a thin, even layer coating the entire surface.

Inked up tile

Lay a thin sheet of paper on top of the tile. Ink will transfer onto your paper through pressure: this can be pressure from your hand and fingers, pencils, toothpicks, bone folders, or any mark making tool you want to try. Experiment with pressure, try drawing with different pencils and mark-making tools. Even a screw will do (but mind the sharp)! 

When you are finished, peel the paper off the tile. You will notice that marks appear wherever you touched the paper during drawing, and that the result is mirrored.

Draw – peel off – reveal

Are you worried about the pencil marks on the back of your paper? Understandable. You can use a thin sheet of paper on top of your final sheet, and use this as your drawing surface. This sheet could already have a sketch or a mirrored printout on it that you can now trace. Use some masking tape to create a hinge that allows you to flip your drawing paper over. That way, you can easily recreate the same drawing a few times.

Trace template – peel off – reveal


Depending on the type of ink you have been using, the cleaning will differ. Always check the packaging for cleaning instructions. For my block printing ink, water is enough to clean my equipment. Loosen the ink by pouring a little bit of water onto the tile and distributing it with the roller. Get rid of the majority of ink and water on your roller by running it across a piece of waste paper.

More tips

Don’t forget to let your prints dry. Depending on the ink you were using, this will take different amounts of time. 

You can touch a print carefully with your little finger to check if ink is still coming off.

To level up this technique, you could ink up a large sheet of perspex rather than a tile. Try inking up with several colours at once. Especially if you are working on a larger piece of paper, fix it to your work surface with some tape that won’t damage the paper to keep it in place. The more hands-free you can work, the better you can control your outcome. 

For some inspiration on how this technique can be applied in a much neater and beautiful way, have a look at Tanaka Mazivanhanga’s mono prints on her website.