1st color printed
1st reduction - 2nd color printed
2nd reduction - 3rd, final color printed
What is a Reduction Print?
   A reduction print can be done with either a woodcut or linocut block print.  It involves carving away parts of the printing block repeatedly and printing another layer of ink.  It is a subtractive process where you carve away the areas on the block that you want to keep  and then print with the next color. For instance, in the example above for the first color, the tan, only the areas that are to remain the paper color are removed. The block is printed for as many times as desired for the edition size plus extras to account for goofs.  Once you start reduction there is no going back to make more prints because you are destroying the block as you go.  So if i wanted an edition of 10, I would print at least 15-20.  Next the block is carved again removing ares that want to remain tan.  All of the prints in the example were then printed a turquiose color.  The turquiose goes right over the tan but the areas from the 1st reduction stay tan. The block is then carved again removing the areas that want to stay turquoise and then the prints are printed with the 3rd, final color. 

Why do it?
    Reduction Printing is thought to have begun with Picasso.  He liked the speed and and cohesiveness afforded by carving the same block over and over and layering colors. He also loved the ease and fluidity of line he could get carving soft linoleum.
    For the registration, it is a bit easier to get the block in the same place on the paper each time.  Sometimes, depending on the image, slight mis-registration can look good, creating a richness of layered color.  Also, when the wood grain texture is strong bits of the color can come through the new color giving it more depth and variation.  
     Print ink is not completely opaque and with the reduction print the colors are changed by the ones beneath.  I feel that this creates a more cohesive palette with each successive color built and containing the one below.
    One disadvantage to reduction printing is that the block is destroyed in the process and you can not "proof" the a final image and then make changes the way you can when you have a block for each color.   You have to take more chances and make. it up as you go along.  The number of prints is final.


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Chris Doogan woodcut, linocut prints, greeting cards