How to Transfer your drawing to a lino block for carving (using Golden GAC 500 image transfer method for photocopy and ink jet)
Ok, so I get asked A LOT how I transfer my images to a block of linoleum. This isn't linocut specific, it just happens to work very well for linocut, especially if drawing directly onto lino isn't a natural feeling process to you, or you've made a drawing and you want to convert it into a print. This also works with some glues like Mod Podge. I've only used GAC 500, so that's how I'm showing you the process.
What you need to start:
1. Your image photocopied or printed and cut down to size
2. Golden GAC 500 Acrylic Medium
3. Piece of Linoleum ready to carve
4. Cheap 2" brush (or anything to disperse the glue)
5. Squeegee or old credit card (to smooth the glue out)
7. Acetone (nail polish remover with acetone)
Start by pouring some GAC 500 directly onto the lino block. Start small, and add more if you need it. (this will reduce your mess)
use the brush to spread the medium as evenly as possible, but don't be too concerned, just focus on getting good coverage. Thin areas will have a risk of not picking up the toner or ink as evenly as the thicker areas, but go too thick and it can impede your later carving as you will have to pierce through a thick layer of gel while you carve out your image.
When your coverage is fairly even, you are ready to move on (see below).
Carefully place the image, face down. Try your best to line it up evenly with the edge, if you don't, you may have issues using a registration block later, as your image will be crooked, and it will be hard to register a nice, even margin for crisp presentation and signing/numbering your work.
Using the squeegee or old credit card, push smooth the image out over the paper. Work from the center of the image out, forcing any excess medium to the edges, and squeeze it right out (clean it with a rag or paper towel, do not allow it to dry on the edges, or it will form an uneven surface around your edges).
Now that it's all smoothed out, let it cure for a bit. I like to wait an hour or two. Golden says you can do it in a few minutes, but I have had issues with the image rubbing off slightly after not waiting long enough. Now I wait at least an hour to be safe, and if I can, I do this before I go to bed, and clean it in the morning.
Now run the cured block and paper under water. Using the ball of your hand, or a towel or rag, begin rubbing away the paper, using the water to help you. When you are finished, the paper will be gone, and all you will be left with is the ink or toner and a layer of the gel medium. You can actually rub pretty hard without worrying too much about clearing the ink. The image is even flipped for you, super convenient! When you print, the image will flip back to its original orientation.
That's it! You are ready to carve! Once you are done carving, you will need to clean the block prior to printing. I use 100% acetone nail polish remover to rub off the medium and the toner. If you try to print before removing the gel medium, you will get uneven results!
Pros with this method
1. Near perfect image transfer
2. No need to trace and flip the image, as this process automatically mirrors your image
3. Very fast and effective (tracing and carbon transfer can be time consuming)
4. You get to draw on your favourite paper, using your favourite tools without having to worry about drawing directly on lino
Cons with this method
1. Doesn't work with reductions, as you need to clean off all the ink and medium prior to printing
2. If you aren't careful, the gel medium can have an impact on your carving (this is why I stress even distribution which will totally eliminate this problem)
3. Not as good on non conventional blocks like softcut or easy carve lino because the skin that the gel medium forms is a much harder layer than the lino, which can easily cause crumbling and slipping on these surfaces (I don't recommend so much for softcut linoleum as I have had the acetone impact the surface of the lino, I have used it on pink Speedball Easy Carve with decent results)
This is a great method if you want a certain look for your lino. I certainly don't think it's the only and best solution. It's situational if you wan't to capture a certain image a certain way. You can lose the spontaneity that comes with drawing directly on your support block. Like anything, this is just another way to do something, and having as many tools and methods at your disposal can help you make the best prints you can!
Cheers, and happy carving!