Make-at-Home: three hacks for better printmaking

Text written by hand on paper
Text on paper

Making-at-home can present lots of challenges when you are used to a well-stocked workshop. In fact, this period of lockdown has been the longest I have ever been away from a printmaking space, in 20 years. It means working differently, working creatively, and for many of us, working in spaces that were not designed for printmaking.

Four weeks later, here are my three hacks for better printmaking-at-home. These are especially good if you share spaces with others, as I do, and are useful when thinking how you can continue your practice after university.

1. Your window is your lightbox.

Clockwise from top left: photograph, text written by hand on paper, blank paper, ballpoint pen, roll of masking tape

You will need: a window, paper and drawing tool
You could also have: any kind of tape, an image or piece of text you have found, or drawn

Tracing an image onto a piece of paper.  Image and paper are both taped to a window.
Good for tracing a found image, or drawing to make a stencil for screenprinting or monoprinting.
Reverse tracing text on paper.  Paper is taped to a window.
Also good for reversing text for printing.

2. Your drying rack… is your drying rack.

Left: scissors, thread, an assortment of small clips

Right: two clothes drying racks

You will need: a clothes drying rack, clips, string/floss, scissors (careful of the sharp!)
You could also have: lots of clips, lots of string/floss

Photograph of a small bulldog clip tied with string, to a rail on a drying rack.
Clips tied loosely to a rail.
Left: an example of clipping two prints, back-to-back, to the drying rack

Right: a clothes drying rack full of prints
Tip: double your capacity by clipping two prints together, back-to-back

3. Your shopping bags are your paper soaking tray.

Clockwise from left: stack of paper to soak, two clear plastic bags, coloured paper tabs, a clean sponge in a bowl of water

You will need: paper to soak, a water sponge or spray, water, two plastic bags
You could also have: small paper tabs, large and heavy books

Image of paper being sponged with water.
Sponge the bag first, lay a sheet of paper on top, and then gently sponge the top of the paper.
A stack of soaked paper, with coloured paper tabs separating each layer.
Optional: stagger tabs between each sheet of paper. This will help you peel off each sheet as you need them.
A soaked stack of paper, between two plastic bags, underneath a large book.
Place the second bag on top, and then add a big book, or two. This will help with even absorption, and keep your paper from drying out.

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:

Practice, not perfect. (having a go at making some boxes)

Last February I took part in a box making workshop with our fantastic Book Arts team, and have not found the time since then to put those skills into practice. 

Until now. 

I had a plan in my head to make some boxes to hold teaching samples for our conductive & reactive ink workshops, and thought I would do this during the Easter break, with the help of Tilly and Rahel.

It was not to be. 

A hurried Plan B came into being as we were told we’d be working from home, and that plan was, quickly grab some materials and worry about the rest later.

What could go wrong?

My first task was to take over the kitchen table, and set everything up nice and neatly to try and emulate the serene environment of the @book.arts.workshop. I felt very pleased with myself at this point. I even Instagrammed.

Ariel view of table with tools laid out

I had tools, some materials, the box I’d made a year ago as a reference, and I’d also managed to find my scribbled notes from that workshop. Ready.

First obstacle. No board chopper.

I set to work with a sturdy craft knife and ruler. (carefully and making sure to keep my fingers out of the way of course)

Slow progress but not impossible and soon I was ready to start gluing.


Washable PVA does not dry quickly.

I swapped to a multi purpose PVA, still water based, but thicker and stronger and happy to dry quickly. 

If you only have washable, don’t worry it will work, just much slower.

Image of two types of glue, washable and multi purpose PVA.

Time for covering.

I had brought some book cloth from the workshop, and had some at home already.

Following my notes, and I cut some shapes and made some folds.

I tested the folds, and then had to cut some slightly different shapes.

Glue time again and then, ta-da!!

It’s a bit uneven and the corners look best from a distance, but it worked!

(I’d like to point out that it is meant to be 3 sided, I didn’t just make a ridiculous mistake)

3 sided crate style box, covered with book cloth

And repeat.

3 boxes, covered in book cloth

Time for the case, and I followed the hardcover guide from the book arts workshop.

I found some left over Christmas wrapping paper to line the boxes and the cases.

Old prints or any scrap paper big enough would work well too.

moving image of box being opened

And repeat.

Three boxes ready for filling with examples!

 3 finished boxes, with an example of contents

So, I had a go, I made mistakes, I swore a bit (a lot) and ended up with 3 functional boxes.

They’re not perfect, but they do what they’re supposed to do and more importantly I learnt from the process, with my skills improving with each one.

One last, and well-known tip worth remembering:

Measure twice, cut once.

Or in my case measure twice, and measure again, just to make sure.

box showing wrong measurements by mistake

Keep practicing…..

Featured Graduate: Azelia Ng Wei Zhen

Azelia at the Design Block at LCC
Azelia at the Design Block at LCC

Azelia Ng Wei Zhen, is a graphic designer based in Singapore. She studied at London College of Communication BA Hons Graphic and Media Design and graduated in 2018. Azelia now works primarily in the field of graphic design but isn’t defined by it. She finds herself coming back to researching the book as an investigation and explores experimental publishing and artist’s books. In this Featured Grad post, she talks about how she has continued her practice after graduating from LCC and how she is working within the times of COVID 19.

1. Tell us about yourself. Have you always made art?

I do enjoy the art of making things and that to me is making art, which I guess started at a young age as I’ve always been curious about the things around me, especially in form, texture, and tactility. 

I’m a (graphic) designer, the reason for the brackets is the acknowledgment not to be pigeonholed by a single definition but rather one that expands and changes from time to time. The work that I do is print-centric but the principles that drive them are the synergy between craftsmanship, ideation, and the experience that resonates with people.

The image shows a book spread which is Azelia's interpretation of The Machine Stops by E.M Forster
Azelia’s interpretation of The Machine Stops by E.M Forster

2.  How did you get started in bookbinding?

It was one of the assignments on the course to interpret a classic read, The Machine Stops by E.M Forster a short story, which became a revelation of my relationship with the book as I explored book design. In time I was engaged in everything and anything to do with the book medium, from designing to making a book.

Most of all it’s therapeutic and fun. The tangible appearance of the final object once all the pages are folded, put into its sequence and sewn together does oddly fascinate me—as if I could control time and space within the book.

3.  Who are your biggest influences?

Irma Boom (Book Designer) + Tauba Auerbach (Artist and Book Artist) + Rahel Zoller (Book Artist + Bookmaker) = Respectable women in the realms of books. When it comes to their approach in the way they do things or the conceived idea, these ladies never fail to bring a pleasant surprise. Through their work, I understand that good + thought-provoking work does not happen by chance, they are the result of careful thought and meticulous attention to detail.

Essentially, the experience that people encounter in context to the subject matter is what influences the work I do. Designing for the senses requires intricate detail and the book medium embodies lots of potentials which is probably why I’m so interested in it—the paper; its weight, colour, opacity, texture; the typeface and how the final design floats on white space. Also, don’t get me to start on the reading experience or the binding. 

The image shows Azelia's desk
Azelia’s desk, working from home.

4.  Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated?

At the moment it’s my little nest, my bedroom, and makeshift studio, where I engage my hands in making, working and playing. With the current situation of COVID-19, I think many people are working from home and it has since become the new norm, possibly a post-COVID-19 condition. 

My workspace is organized with everything essential reachable at arm’s length (also the space I have isn’t very big as well) and mainly three areas – the digital, craft and library sections. In the digital section, I have the main desk, a glass table, to do daily work with the computer, Wacom, stationeries, important documents and underneath it is an A3 printer, which I use to do test prints of the mockups that I’m making.  

On my left is the craft area, a flat cabinet, used as a table with a cutting mat on top and it’s where I keep the necessary tools involved in tangible experiments—binding tools, adhesives, paint, paper, brush and etc… This is where I do my experiments + mockups, making and creating in the physical form. Lastly, I’ve got a personal library, with books of my interest and books collected during my travels in different countries. 

In a workspace, it is important to organise it to one’s workflow, and for me, I needed additional space, like a workshop area, where I focus on physical experiments without the need to clean up or shift things around just to do day to day things.

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

Firstly, do not rely just on computers to realize your project but rather utilise the many facilities in LCC to its fullest potential – BookArts, Letterpress, Screenprinting or the 3D workshops. As a designer, it is important to know the process required in the production of the work into its physical format. It better informs one’s practice by the understanding of variables in materiality and print production which can alter/ affect the final piece, to design with those variables in mind and to challenge them.

Lastly, always talk to the technicians, they are charming and one of the most interesting bunch within the school compound (tutors? not as much). Every technician has something different to offer, be it their life experiences or the comfort and advice they bring in the stressful period of submissions. They are also like spies living double lives, having things lined up outside of their day job—some are established artists.

6.  Where can we see more of your work?  

Since graduation, I’ve worked on commercial work in local design studios in Singapore, and outside of work I’ve participated in exhibitions and have organized a ‘Book Talk: Behind the Book’ at National Design Centre but at moment I’m preparing to open a tiny online shop, The Other Studio, turning my bedroom into a studio to create and make things.

The image shows Azelia moderating the 'Book Talk: Behind the Book' at National Design Centre
Azelia moderating the ‘Book Talk: Behind the Book’ at National Design Centre


Alternative Bookbinding Tools

Want to do some bookbinding but don’t have any tools to hand. Here are some alternatives: Instead of a bonefolder you can use the handle of a blunt butter knife or any wooden/plastic cooking spoons. Instead of a pricker use a regular needle and a wine cork as a handle. Instead of bookbinding thread use tooth floss (it’s already waxed) and instead of a bookbinding needle just use a regular sewing needle.

Bookbinding tools, bonefolder, pricker, thread and needles

Try it out with a simple Three-hole Pamphlet Binding:

Paper and alternative bookbinding tools

1. Use between 4 to 8 sheets of A4 paper for your section and a heavier paper/card (roughly 250-300gsm) for your cover.

2. Start by folding each sheet of paper in half, keep the corners aligned and use the handle of the butter knife/wooden/plastic spoon to create a sharp fold.

3. Stack the sheets of paper inside each other and put the cover sheet onto the outside.

Folded sheets of paper and alternative bonefolder

4. Use the needle and the cork as pricker to pierce 3 holes, with equal distance, from the inside to the outside of your book.

Alternative pricker in use

5. Cut a length of the tooth floss roughly twice as long as your spine and feed it through the needle. Start sewing through the center hole to your right or left.

Alternative thread, tooth floss

6. Skip the centre hole and continue to the hole on the other side.

7. Now finish sewing by coming through the centre hole again.

8. To tie a knot, make sure that both ends of the thread are on opposite sides of the central thread. Tighten the thread taut and make a knot on top of the central thread. Trim your book once it is sewn.

Follow step-by-step guide here.

Or watch Simon Goode’s three-hole pamphlet binding. He explains how to properly cut the book afterwards

Bookbinding: Three Hole Pamphlet binding explained by Simon Goode

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.

Featured Graduate: Vytenis Semenas

Vito printing in the workshops at LCC, 2018.
Vito printing in the workshops at LCC, 2018.

Vito Semenas graduated in 2019 from BA Illustration and Visual Media (IVM). His work involves intricately carved and carefully printed linocuts and engravings, that draw inspiration from different mark-making languages and cultures. In this first Featured Grad post, he talks about how he has continued his practice after graduating from LCC.

Tell us about yourself.  Have you always made art?

I believe visual art is one of defining characteristics of the human species. As far as I can remember I have been always doing some form of visual art. Whether it was experimenting with photography or drawing anime illustrations, art has always been a big part of my life.

The body of my work contains different techniques and styles developed over the time; it can be described as a catalogue of my life. So the answer is yes: I have been doing art my whole my life whether it was intentional or not.

The Metamorphosis, 2018. 
Linocut on Somerset Velvet Newsprint.
The Metamorphosis, 2018.

How did you get started in printmaking?

During the first year in LCC, where I was studying Illustration and Visual Media, I tried numerous techniques of illustration and printmaking, just to get to know what would benefit me in professional practice. I even tried to do a digital paintings as this style of art was always fascinating to me. However, I was not able to achieve the results I was aiming at. For that reason, I kept looking for other ways of expressing myself.

In the meantime, my love for printmaking was growing extremely fast. I decided to create a series of lino carvings during the summer holidays hoping that it would help me to prepare and improve my portfolio for the upcoming year. At the time lino printing technique looked easily accessible and most affordable technique if I had to work from home.

What influences your artwork?

An artist might be inspired by one painting, a body of work, or even an entire style of art.

Finding influences and connections between artists is an important to the art I create. For me it is important that the conversation of art continues and new intuitions about art can be made whilst looking from different viewers perspectives. My illustrations are based around the idea of utilising fine line work and geometrical shapes combined with the various allegorical meanings and symbolism to books, mythology-religion, movies, personal experiences and so on. The biggest influences of my style have been my obsession with the patterns and naturalism that could be found in the nature. Sometimes influence comes by examining the descriptive attributes of art other people create. However, finding influences is a sophisticated process that involves studying.

The Story of Two Mountains, 2020.  
Linocut on Fabriano Avorio.
The Story of Two Mountains, 2020.

Where do you make work now that you’ve graduated?

My dream and goal always were to set up my own little print studio at home. In the meantime, I was lucky to win the Thames -Side Print Studio New Graduate Prize. I also was nominated for a Royal Academy printmaking fellowship. These opportunities provide me with the access to printmaking studios 3 days a week which is more than enough knowing how slow engraving and carving techniques could be. I illustrate, plan and design my pieces at home. I also carve my blocks at home in order not to waste that precious studio time.

Planning is very important and for that reason I record my work time by using designed apps for time tracking. This comes really handy calculating how long it took me to carve each piece and makes it easier to decide on a sales price.

Photograph of Vito at Thames-Side Print Studio, holding a lino block, in front of a press.
Vito at Thames-Side Print Studio.

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

The time at LCC was the best part of my life. I gained a lot of knowledge, met a lot of amazing artists and field professionals. It also opened the doors to a lot of exciting new projects and opportunities.

I am happy that I tried so many different medias and that would be my advice to everyone studying at LCC: try as many different things as possible! Experiment and don’t be afraid of failure. That would be the advice I would give myself: is to not be afraid of things not turning out the way I was planning, because everything happens for a reason.

The Arrow Maiden, 2019. 
Linocut on Somerset Velvet Newsprint.
The Arrow Maiden, 2019.

Where can we see more of your work? 

Most of my work can be found on my Instagram profile and website, which also serves as a e-shop and portfolio.

Instagram: @wild_stork

Selected Exhibitions
2019 Final Degree Show UAL, London College of Communication
2019 WOWxWOW- ‘’Monochromagic 2’’
2019 WoWxWOW- ‘’Eternity’s Engine’’
2019 National Original Print Exhibition, London
2019 Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, London
2019 The Masters Relief, Bankside Gallery, London

Ling’s Top Tip – Save all your paper

Photograph of origami cubes, made with found paper.

There is paper everywhere, waiting for you to use it. From junk mail and pizza leaflets, to catalogues, bank statements and old magazines, to newspapers and delivery inserts, there is plenty of paper, everywhere.

Photograph of junk mail, newspaper and magazine.

At many printmaking studios, members bring in their paper to use and share. It’s free, and it gives you something to read when you’re waiting for your screen or plate to dry.

Photograph of newspaper cut into paper stencils for monoprinting.

I use it to make stencils for monoprinting. Magazines and newspapers use thin paper stock, perfect for cutting with a scalpel or scissors. Stack several sheets together to make multiple stencils, rather than cutting one at a time. I use masking tape to hold my stack together.

Photograph showing how to clean a lino block with an old magazine.

Free paper is also great for cleaning up after printing. This lino block is taped to a cutting mat, and cannot be moved. I slide it between sheets of a magazine and press down, to take off as much ink as I can, before wiping the block clean with a cloth.

Photograph of twelve sonobe origami units.

My favourite thing to do with free paper, however, is to fold it. Mock up a book, test a design for packaging, or do what I do: cut it into squares and make some origami! This unit origami pattern is simple, but you can create complex shapes just by making more of the same unit, and slotting it together.

I learn a lot about paper when I do this. Bank statements come on a thicker, rigid stock, which is harder to fold, but provides better structure. Magazines are easy to fold, but the results are a bit floppy – technical term! The inexpensive paper stock is very sensitive to moisture, and damages quickly.

Photograph of a twelve-unit origami fold.
12-unit fold, with found paper.

To make a cube, you will need six squares of paper.
To make the 12-unit fold, you will need twelve squares of paper. Good luck!

Hello world!

We’re building a website! 
Welcome to the LCC Printmaking, Book Arts & Letterpress website.  We hope you will find it useful and interesting.  All are welcome.

We plan on filling our site with resources and links for our students, colleagues and visitors.  Some of our information will be especially useful for students at LCC, but a lot of it will hopefully be helpful to everyone. We are not website builders, but a team of passionate makers who are now looking for ways to keep in touch, and keep making in these uncertain times.   

Questions?  Email:

An image of us building a website here.