What is Lino Printing?

Lino printing otherwise known as lino cutting, is viewed as a traditional printmaking method. When lino printing you cut a design into a block of linoleum, then ink the remaining surface with a brayer and print onto either paper or fabrics using a baren. You can print multiple copies of the same artwork, which are know as editions. Lino printing is one method of relief printmaking, with similar processes to traditional woodblock printing. Linoleum is a preferred material when compared to wood due to its ease of use when carving.

Of all the different types of relief printmaking, lino printing is one of the most accessible and easiest techniques to learn from home. You can learn how to make and print homemade Christmas cards or lino print art. Follow our step by step guide on lino printing for beginners to learn how to lino print from the comfort of your home. Many artists start with lino printing due to it simplicity to learn.

Help Improve This Lino Printing Guide!

Feel free to message me on the the contact form to contribute & improve this guide. You can also check the comments at the bottom of the guide or you can checkout the Reddit Printmaking Forum for more ideas.

Lino Printing Kits

Click here to find the best Lino printing kits.

Lino Cutting Tools

Click here to find the best Lino cutting tools.

Lino For Printing

Click here to find lino for printing.

Lino Printing Rollers

Click here to find lino printing rollers.

Lino Printing Ink

Click here to find lino printing inks.

Printmaking Books

Click here to find books on printmaking.

Tools & Materials For Lino Printing

Most of the resources needed for the lino printing process are relatively inexpensive, you can find links for the required tools and materials in the table below or by visiting Blick Arts. When you purchase via the links we receive a small commission from the supplier (it does not cost you anything!) these commissions help support the costs of running this website, we only recommended tools and materials from suppliers we use.

Types Of Lino For Printing

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 further reading on this you can check out a blog by Handprinted, where they tested various types of lino for printing.

Lino TypeSuppliers
Easy Cut (Black) - Low Detail Designs For BeginnersSoft Lino Block - 10 Sheets 150mm x 100mm
Speedball Speedy Carve Block (US) 9"X11.75"Pink Soft Lino Block
Hessian Backed (Brown)Backed Lino Block 1 Sheet 300mm x 390mm
Essdee Art LinoEssdee Art Lino 2 Sheets 305mm x 203mm
Zieler Easy Carve LinoZieler Easy Carve Lino 5 Sheets 210mm x 148mm
Battleship GreyHessian Backed (Grey) - 5 Sheets 300mm x 200mm
Essdee Mounted LinoEssdee Mounted Lino - 2 Sheets 75mm x 75mm
Artway Soft Cut Polymer SheetsArtway Soft Cut Polymer Sheets - 3 Sheets 594mm x 420mm
Types of lino for printing

Different types of Lino for Printmaking.

Types of Lino for Printing by warpedvisions.org


Types Of Paper For Lino Printing

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. The heavyweight papers are best if you have a printing press, if using a baren or printing by hand go for lightweight papers which will give you better results.

Types Of Inks For Lino Printing

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.

Pros of Oil Based InksCons of Oil Based Inks
Ink is rich in colourClean up uses chemicals
Does not dry quickly on rollers or plate/blockMore expensive & costly
Less flecking (Paper showing through ink)Can cause a mess if on clothing or shoes
Waterproof inks don’t run when wetLonger drying times
Pros of Water Based InksCons of Water Based Inks
Cheaper than oil based inkDry quickly on your plate
Easy cleanup with warm soapy waterColour is not as dense
Quick drying time of printsNot all ink is of great quality/density

Cutting Tools For Lino Printing

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. Read the lino cutting tools review to get a better idea of what may be best suited for you.

Lino Printing Tools

Various Lino cutting tools.

Lino Printing Rollers & Brayers

One of the key tools for lino printing are the rollers and brayers, they are used to roll ink ink onto your lino printing plate to enable you to print. You can get a variety of lino printing rollers online or please check out our guide on lino printing rollers for more information.

Printing Barrens

Printing barrens are an optional tool you can use for printing your lino cut, they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. The basic idea is to use a smooth surface and rub on the back of your paper, after the paper is laid onto the inked lino cut. Whilst applying some pressure and rubbing in circular motions it pushes the inked lino cut and paper together, this will print the design onto your paper. For this guide we are using a basic Speed Ball Printing Barren.

The Lino Printing Process Step by Step

Step 1 – Designing Your Lino Print

Equipment Needed

Paper

Used to draw onto or print image onto.

Pencil

Use a pencil or pen to draw out the design.

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, covered in the next step.

Tips for creating your design:

  • Bear in mind that the print will effectively be a mirror image of your block so you need to work in reverse if you are incorporating any text
  • Sketch your design on paper with pencil so you can easily make changes or correct mistakes
Lino Print Design Image

Use a photograph for your design, print it off and then trace over it.

Lino Printing Design Idea

You can sketch a more complex design for Lino printing.

Step 2 – Transferring Your Design onto the Lino

Equipment Needed

Carbon Paper

Use to transfer the design from paper onto Lino.

Pencil

Used to outline design once transferred.

Lino Block

Blank Lino block used for printing.

Chalk/Graphite

The alternate method to carbon paper.

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.

Tips for transferring your design:

  • If you transfer your design onto a slightly bigger section of lino than you need this gives some allowance in case your print is crooked
  • By placing carbon paper or chalked back paper between your sketch and the lino you can draw over your design and it will transfer onto the lino (this is why it’s important to remember it’s a mirror image when designing it)
  • Once your design is visible on the lino you can go over it with the fine tip pen to make it clearer
Transferring design onto lino

6B Pencil rubbed on the back of photo which will make a mark on your Lino when drawn over, you can use chalk too.

Transferring design onto lino

Sketching over photo with graphite rubbed on back will produce an outline on Lino.

Sketched design on lino

Outlined design on Lino after drawing over image with graphite on back of paper.

Sketched design on lino

You can hand draw design onto Lino, lines are to help drawing to scale.

Other methods include using carbon paper on the back of your design.

Hand drawn design transferred with carbon paper with detail redrawn.


Step 3 – How to Cut Lino

Equipment Needed

Lino Cutter

Lino cutter to carve the design.

Utility Knife

Use a utility knife to cut small areas.

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.

Tips for cutting your lino:

  • When carving your lino print always carve away from yourself in case you slip (best to have your first aid kit to hand just in case!)
  • Make small shallow cuts until you get used to cutting
  • There are different types of lino; some are soft, and others are more tough and need to be heated before they can be carved
  • Make sure you clear away all the cut-out bits of lino
Cutting lino print

Start cutting your design into your Lino.

Make sure to use the correct sized blade when cutting your Lino.

You can use a utility knife/stanley knife to today up rough edges.

Step 4 – Inking Your Lino

Equipment Needed

Printing Ink

Lino/block printing ink.

Lino Roller

Lino printing roller for ink.

Latex Glove

Latex gloves to keep hands clean.

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.

Preparing Your Lino For Printing

  • Glue lino to a wooden or plastic board (Foamex) to ensure the printing surface is flat
  • Degrease the lino with white spirit or warm soapy water to make sure the ink is applied evenly
  • Clean the edges of the lino and also cut any loose bits of Lino to make sure they don’t mix with the ink
  • If you have ink in the cut areas being printed you can create a mask of the cut areas and block them, use a thin paper for this around 80gsm or less
  • Use a cotton bud with water/white spirit to remove ink in undesired areas of your cut lino
  • Use some excess lino to create a frame around the edges of the current lino print. This will support the roller on the edges to stop and stop it from falling into the cut areas and ink the undesired areas of the print
Lino backed with foamex board

Lino print backed with foamex plastic to make sure the plate does not warp.

Lino print backed with card and tape to make sure the plate does not warp.

Create frame from old Lino around your Lino print stops roller from slipping off edge when rolling ink.

Clean Lino plate before printing with warm soapy water to remove any grease as this can stop ink printing correctly.

Inking Your Lino Cut

  • Ink needs to be of a certain stickiness and consistency before printing; you will notice printer’s ink is thicker than fountain pen ink
  • Apply a spoonful of ink to your sheet of glass/Perspex using the roller to create a nice even layer of ink on both the glass/Perspex and the roller; the ink will acquire a nice velvety texture
  • Apply your inky roller to your carved lino block making sure the ink is evenly distributed

Use a small amount of ink about the size of a pea.

Roll ink until smooth and velvety.

Roll ink onto plate, rotate the plate 90° and then repeat until the plate has been rolled from all angles giving a smooth layer of ink.

Inked lino plate.


Step 5 – Printing Your Lino Cut

Equipment Needed

Printmaking Paper

Paper to print onto.

Printing Baren

Baren to print Lino.

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.

Tips for printing your linocut:

  • Try to avoid any movement that could result in smudging
  • Remove the paper from your lino cut slowly and carefully to reveal your design
  • Make sure you let your print dry thoroughly
  • Leave some excess space to tape the edge of the paper to reduce movement
  • If you have white showing through the ink, apply more ink to the plate and some more pressure!
  • You can re-use your linocut by applying more ink
  • Use lighter weight paper if your design is printing with the paper showing through. You can also try to dampen the paper by soaking the paper in water and then pressing the paper in between newspaper until it is damp and then try to print the design, this should allow the ink to print more consistently

A Lino printing Baren such as this one from Speedball is ideal to help with printing.

You can use a Lino printing roller to print with, however, results can vary.

Lay paper on top of inked Lino lightly, rub very lightly to make sure the paper wont move.

If you use a Baren rub the back of the paper in circular motions, covering all areas. If you use a roller then roller all areas with a lot of pressure to ensure a solid print.

Slowly peel back paper to reveal your Lino print.

Final Lino print revealed.

Step 6 – Clean Up

Equipment Needed

Soap & Water

Hot soapy water to clean Lino.

Sponge

Sponge to help cleaning.

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.

Make sure to wash all ink off your Lino plate.

Washing after printing

Make sure to wash all ink off your hands.

Lino Printing History

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.

Chinese block printing

Diamond Sutra from Tang Dynasty China | AD 868 | The worlds earliest printed & dated book.

Famous Lino Print Artists

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.

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