I've been having a lot of fun lately documenting the before and after pics of our recent new releases. I think it's so interesting to see the original sketch compared to the final product. Sometimes the drawings are used exactly as I made them and sometimes I put a lot of time into tweaking them digitally before I'm happy with how they look. Don't you just love how the color brings them to life? It amazes me every time. These are some the before and after shots of our new Easter cards.
So today I thought it would be fun to show a little glimpse of my illustration process. This is something that I've been working on for a while now and I ended up writing a detailed explanation of the entire process, where I go into specifics on each step. If you're interested in seeing how I do it, hop over here and get the whole scoop.
New branding work coming out of the studio for The MollySmith. For those of you who follow me on Instagram you may have seen a quick picture of this a couple weeks ago when I was working on it. (For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram, you're missing out on the fun. I post a lot of "in progress" shots before I make the big official blog announcements. This means a lot of sneak peeks and firsthand looks. Who doesn't love that, right?)
A little bit about this project..
Company: The Mollysmith
Owner: Molly Sloan
Business: Handmade Jewelry
Mission: To create well-crafted, unique and meaningful jewelry
Objective: Create a look from the ground up that gives a sense of unique, handmade jewelry by a seasoned metalsmith.
Concept: Following suit with metalsmithing, the idea behind this logo was rough, dirty and gritty. We combined those with contemporary elements for an even mix of new and vintage. The goal was to emphasize that metalsmithing is a handcrafted, labor of love. While keeping the logo playful without being too frilly, we strived to show that's its tough work to make beautiful pieces.
We went through a few revisions as we worked toward the final logo, you can see the progression below. The top version has no hammers. The second introduces hammers, but it wasn't quite right. The third version includes the crossed hammers, but they were the wrong type of hammer. And in the final version, seen above, all of the elements come together to be something that is a perfect fit for her business.
This branding will continue throughout all of Molly's business elements, shop, website, business cards, signage, product packaging, social media.. the whole deal. So stayed tuned for a lot of exciting updates for the Mollysmith. They are on their way.
What is Block Printing?
Block Printing is also known as Relief Printing. Typically printed by hand, the ink leaves a raised texture on the paper. Block printing is done by carving an image into linoleum, rubber or wood blocks, applying a thin, even layer of ink and then pressing the block evenly onto either paper, fabric, wood, or a flat surface of your choosing. I generally always print on some form of paper and for this project we are making holiday cards.
First I sketched the design I wanted to use, keeping in mind my intended end result. I wanted a simple, but fun snowflake pattern that would work well bleeding off the edge of the paper. Once my preliminary sketch was ready I transferred it to a lino block. I hand sketched it, but carbon paper works great for this process. It's important to remember to trace the reverse image onto your block so it shows right side up once printed. Once my image was traced, I carved my block. I always start carving out the most detailed areas first, in this case I traced around the edge of the snowflake and cleaned out the smaller white spaces. Then I went back with a wider tool to clear out the background. Double check your work, its easy to miss small areas. A test print is always a good idea when you think you are done.
A side note to carving lino. I recommend wearing a heavy work glove to hold your block. The knives slip very easily and can gouge your fingers like they are butter. Keep band-aids on hand and by all means, be careful and take your time.
So now the stamp is carved, band-aids and apron on, I'm ready to start printing. I should also mention I cut down, scored and folded my paper beforehand. These cards are A2 size, meaning they are 4.25" x 5.5". I applied a small dollop of ink onto my inking plate and spread out with the brayer making sure that the roller was evenly covered. With some inks I find its necessary to mix an ink extender into my color. It can make a big difference between getting a blotchy, crusty print and a lovely, smooth, uniform print. I find I need to do this with my older inks. I don't create block prints on a regular basis so I don't go through my supplies that quickly. If you are noticing that your ink isn't applying evenly no matter what you do, its time to try the extender. Pick up a small bottle when you buy your other inks. You'll be glad you have it.
Once I had a thin, even ink coverage on the roller, I applied it to the carved block by rolling evenly over the surface. I like to apply the ink in all different directions to make sure the entire design is covered, while not pushing down on the roller too hard. You don't want ink spilling over the edge of the carving - it can make for messy prints. I did my test print and now I'm ready to start printing the cards. I laid down a sheet of scrap paper, then the card itself and gently set my block down where I wanted the print to be, ink side down. Its so important to apply even pressure to the whole block. Even Pressure = Even Print I like to use my hand press to do this. Its much easier on my hands and wrists and I find that I can make many more prints at a time. Once I applied pressure to the block, I held down the card with one hand and gently peeled the block off the paper with the other hand. I stand my cards up on a flat surface to let them dry. Since I use a water-based acrylic ink they dry fairly quickly, usually within an hour or so. Clean the carved block and inking tools off right away after printing with a damp sponge. The water-based inks clean up quickly and easily. And there it is. A lovely, unique hand printed card. You can reuse your block thousands of times.
on a side note, I learned something this morning that completely changed
my world. If you are going to be doing any type of production printing,
you can use your linoleum blocks to print using a letterpress machine.
Now of course you would need a letterpress machine on hand and they are
not easy to come by or cheap for that matter, however, since I have a small Sigwalt at home
already, this really changes the game for me. Not sure why I never put
the two ideas together, but oh boy I am excited now. Can you imagine the possibilities?