Mega Man Linocut Prints

My day 1 project was about an analogy between retro video games and printmaking.

your basic mega man

The Nintendo Entertainment System has a limited palette: of fifty-odd possible colors, only twenty-five can appear at any one time, and only four of those can be used in a single sprite.  Games produced for the NES made careful use of this palette, expressing as much information through color as possible.  This is famously the case in the Mega Man games for the NES, in which Mega Man (our hero) changes colors to indicate which weapon he’s using.

In printmaking (and I’m a novice at this, so let me know if I’m getting something wrong), multicolor prints are often made by overlaying a number of blocks with complementary negative spaces, producing a number of interlocking monochromatic fields. Look at it sideways, and that’s a lot like how color works on the Nintendo.

blocks before printing

As a means of investigating this parallelism (and making some fan art in the process) I made these blocks for a basic Mega Man sprite (his shooting stance).  There are four blocks: one for the background, one for Mega Man’s outline, and the two colors to indicate which weapon he’s using.  The blocks were made by drawing a 32×24 grid on the linoleum, then drawing an outline around the pixels that belonged to each color area.  I scored the edges of the areas with an exacto knife to ensure neatness, and then went at the thing with my linoleum cutter.  That was how I spent the majority of the day.

Once you’ve got your blocks, inking and printing a bunch of Mega Men is easy.  My first test print is at the beginning of this entry.  I think the ragged (“hand pulled” or whatever) registration served the subject matter, so I stuck with it for the rest of the day.  Here’s a larger composition I’ve been working on, in various stages of completion:

backgrounds and outlines

(detail from center top)

July 29th, 2008


  • 1. Bre Pettis - Etsy Street:&hellip  |  July 31st, 2008 at 4:09 am

    […] also had the chance to interview Robert Moon about his ecofabulous wallet, Adam Parrish about his pixel linocuts, and Joshua Berry about his summer mittens. This is just a taste of the projects that are coming […]

  • 2. Sprite Stitch » Meg&hellip  |  August 2nd, 2008 at 2:02 am

    […] at 5-in5.com they cut some mega man blocks and did someblock printing…NES sprites would be perfect for […]

  • 3. Web Clippings » Blo&hellip  |  August 1st, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    […] clipped from 5-in-5.com […]

  • 4. spudart  |  August 1st, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    this is so mega-great!

  • 5. Megaman Wood Print | ALBO&hellip  |  August 4th, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    […] [via 5-in-5] […]

  • 6. John Steins  |  October 14th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I like these linocuts. Very cool. I notice you’re using the soft rubber blocks rather than battleship linoleum. I use both depending on the project.

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