This is probably really obvious to anyone who has done lots of relief printing, or who had someone to show them how. But I had to wade through quite a few books and websites and then try it myself to really understand. I don't like the idea of spending hours cutting away a background that won't be printed with linocutting or woodcutting tools. It seems there are three main ways to avoid this:
- use a stencil of mylar to block off the parts you don't want to print
- cut away the area you don't want to print (with a jigsaw for wood, or a knife or scissors for lino)
- use a small brayer and ink up only the section you want to print.
When cutting away what you don't want to print, you can ink the part you want to print and then put it back together for printing, to make sure it is registered correctly. The only problem with cutting away is that you can get a thin line between the sections (the width of the cut).
By the way, this lino was a piece of flooring linoleum and I was unable to get rid of the surface texture which gives the print a very spotty look. I tried sanding it as recommended in some books but it didn't help. It's cheap (in this case, free) but the commercial linocutting blocks don't have that texture.