Pros of Oil Based Inks
- Ink is rich in colour
- Does not dry quickly on rollers or plate/block
- Less flecking (Paper showing through ink)
- Waterproof inks don’t run when wet
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 linoprint.
Read the list below to see the basics of the lino printing process and what is contained in this lino printing guide.
You can checkout the Reddit Printmaking Forum for more ideas and information. Feel free to message me on Reddit or through the contact form to contribute & improve this guide. You can also check the comments at the bottom of the guide.
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/hessian 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.
For Lino Printing I would recommend using heavy weight papers, 250gsm+ which are designed for printmaking or watercolour painting to get the best results possible. Personally I have always used Fabriano 300gsm paper which is cotton based, the weight stops the paper from warping when there is a lot of ink applied. I will elaborate more on paper types in due course.
When you create your lino print you need to consider one of the most essential & important materials, which is the ink. You can use waterbased or oil based ink for block & lino printing, each have there own pros and cons which have been listed below to help you make a descion of what you need.
Out of personal choice I would recommend using Caligo Safewash inks that are oil based and can be cleaned with warm soapy water, offering the best of both worlds.
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 lino 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/Utility 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.