McCance was born in a suburb of Glasgow and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1911-5. In 1918 he married a fellow student, Agnes Miller Parker (one of Britain's leading wood-engravers), and they moved to London two years later. In the early 1920s McCance developed a machine-inspired, near abstract style, much indebted to the work of Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticists. He was one of very few Scottish artists to follow such a path. From 1930 to 1933 he worked as controller of the celebrated Gregynog Press in Wales, where leading British printmakers and typographers produced highly prized, limited-edition books.