Linoleum (lino) printing involves cutting a design into linoleum (known as a ‘linocut’) which is then used to print the design. Of all the different types of printmaking, lino printing is one of the most accessible and easiest techniques to learn.
This ‘lino printing for beginners’ guide provides a handy tick-list of all the resources you will need, followed by clear step-by-step instructions on how to linocut.
You can checkout the Reddit Printmaking Forum for more ideas and information.
There are a variety of types of lino that can be used for printing. The 2 main types of lino that you come across are soft lino with no backing and tougher lino with a skrim backing. Generally speaking both types of lino can produce high quality prints. The more accessible softer lino is easier to cut and cheaper, however more traditional tougher lino gives you more control and detail.
Depending on how much money you can spare to buy tools for lino printing determines the quality of the tools available. Shown are a mixture of cheaper and more expensive tools, if you are a beginner I would advise looking for the red handled tools which allow you to change the size of the cutting tool.
Most of the resources needed for the lino printing process are relatively inexpensive. Here’s a list of materials and tools you will need:
For your first design it’s a good idea to choose something simple that will work with one colour; you may want to create a picture of something such as an animal, or a smaller repetitive pattern. You can also lino print an image and trace over the photo once you cover the back in chalk or graphite (Step 2)
Once you are happy with your design the next step is to transfer it onto the lino so that you can easily cut your design into the lino. Alternatively, you can draw directly onto the lino which saves time on transferring your design.
Now you are ready to cut the lino (note art grade lino is easier to cut than floor lino). Use the Stanley knife or lino cut tools to carve out the white areas/’negative space’ of your design.
Now you are ready for the exciting part of the lino printing process – printing! Make sure you have a working area prepared, bearing in mind that ink stains (you may also want to wear an apron) There are many different types of ink: oil-based inks are better as they don’t dry as quickly, but they are harder to clean up; Caligo Safewash inks are oil-based, print beautifully and can be cleaned away with soapy water.
You may want to do a couple of practice prints on test paper to start with, in case you need to make some more tweaks to your linocut (remember you can only carve more material away, but you can’t put it back!) Place your inked lino block down first and then the paper you want to print on; apply even pressure using a clean ink roller, alternatively rubbing circular motions with a spoon or using a baren to transfer your design from the linocut onto the paper.
Don’t worry if your firstborn lino print doesn’t look quite as you imagined; practice makes perfect! Clean your linocut with soapy water; this is important, so it remains unblemished should you wish to use it again. Clean your cutting tools carefully to keep them in good condition. If you have any troubleshooting issues during the lino printing process or have any questions on how to do lino printing feel free to contact me via the about page.
Block printing originated in China around 200AD. The use of lino was introduced in German early in the 20th century for wallpaper printing; the lino printing process became a popular method for illustrating children’s books in the 1940s. Lacking the directional grain of wood and being easier to carve, lino can produce a greater variety of results and is a much less expensive medium to work with.
UK Modernist artists Cyril Power and Sybil Andrew produced successful linocuts both independently and in partnership, often inspired by the boats on the Thames. Spanish Cubist artist Pablo Picasso turned his hand to the lino printing process in the 1940s and 1950s, producing striking graphic posters presenting abstract portraits and bullfighting. Current US street artist Swoon leaves linocut human figures in public spaces.