What is registration?
Registration is the process by which a printmaker will line up more than one colour within a print so that all colours register exactly in the right place on top of each other. There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours cutting and inking a block for the final print to appear wonky and the colours not line up properly.
There are lots of different methods for how to do this and I will discuss two simple methods in this article that you can try when printing linocut or woodcut prints of more than one colour e.g. in the reduction technique or key-block technique. These are both methods that I teach in my workshops to people trying out multiple colour relief prints for the first time. Each printmaker will have their own preference for the way they register a print, but as long as the colours all line-up in the final print, then the method is successful!
It is good practice to get into the habit of using some form of registration even when you are printing a one-colour print. This means that your print will be lined up in the exact place on each piece of printing paper. It also allows you the flexibility to add a second colour should you want to after printing the first.
When in doubt, also seek help from a printmaking studio or professional printmaker to guide you through the process. Blogs, books and descriptions are really helpful, but nothing beats a face-to-face demonstration!
Simple Registration (Creating a Registration Board)
This is one of my favourite methods for registration and one that I teach a lot in live printmaking classes and workshops. It requires no specialist equipment, is simple to prepare and can be used with our without a printing press.
In this method you take a piece of cardboard larger than your printing paper and place one sheet of your printing paper in the centre. When you prepare your paper make sure that your sheets are exactly the same size. You may need to trim the edges if you cut the paper yourself. Using a pencil draw around this sheet with a pencil. You can also stick some small pieces of card, fixed with masking tape or PVA glue around the paper on all four sides. This means that when you place the paper into its correct position, you are resting it against the cardboard markers each time so that the position is accurate. Remove the printing paper and place the block that you are using in the middle of the cartridge paper (so that it sits in the middle of where your printing paper would be). Again draw around this with a pencil and mark at the top and left with small thin pieces of card. Your registration board is then complete!
This method will mean that when you place your block and paper in their marked spaces each time, the ink will print in the same place and your print will be properly registered.
This method I call the ‘cheats’ registration as it mainly relies on the eye and steady hand of the printmaker and does not follow the traditional methods used by printmakers lining up relief blocks. This method should really be used as a last resort in registration and it can be very tricky for working on large-scale prints. However, it can be a great way of recovering a print where the registration has gone wrong of for those who simply find the other methods too complex.
Print the whole edition of your print in the first colour onto separate sheets of paper. Once your block is inked with the second colour, lay out on your working space one of your prints that has the first colour on it face-up. Carefully lower the inked block INK SIDE DOWN onto the paper lining up the edges of the block with the edges of the first colour. This can take a little patience to get it in place but once there, press gently on the back so that the ink touches the surface of the paper. Flip the paper and block over very carfeully and burnish or place through a printing press as normal.
Are there other methods?
Enjoy your printmaking!