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Last Updates Published: January 14, 2024

What is Lino Printing?

Lino printing is a way of making art that uses linoleum, a soft material, to create pictures or designs. Artists carve into the linoleum to make their design. Then, they put ink on the top parts that aren’t carved away. When they press the linoleum onto paper or fabric, it makes a print of their design. This method is good for making lots of copies of the same picture. It’s easy to learn, so lots of people enjoy doing it. Lino printing is special because it makes prints that look and feel different from other types of art. It’s been around for a long time but is still popular today. Plus, it’s a nice way to make art with friends or in a group.

  • Lino printing, also known as linocut, is a relief printmaking technique akin to woodblock printing.
  • Designs are carved into linoleum block, vinyl or rubber.
  • The raised, uncarved areas are inked with a brayer and then pressed onto paper or fabric using a baren.
  • Lino printing allows for the creation of multiple copies, or editions, of the artwork.
  • Produce vibrant textured prints and easy to learn at home.

Monsters From The ID – Linocut on Zerkall Paper

Lino printing shares similarities with traditional woodblock printing. However, linoleum is favoured over wood due to its carving-friendly nature.

While some linocut techniques, such as single-colour prints, are straightforward, others involve more intricate processes. These can include reduction printing for multi-coloured outputs or registration techniques for using multiple blocks. This guide focuses on the single-colour linocut technique. Given the high cost of a lino printing press, we’ll be using a baren or wooden spoon for our printing.

If you’re dipping your toes into this creative pool for the first time, or if the idea of lino printing has sparked your curiosity, you’ve found the right place. For over ten years, I’ve journeyed through the intricacies of linocut creation starting when I was a teenager at school (How time flies!) , and I’m excited to share this path with you. As a beginner, you might feel a mix of excitement and uncertainty – fear not! I’m here to guide you step by step, unraveling the joys and challenges of lino printing, and helping you discover the artist within. Let’s embark on this artistic adventure together!

Why Choose Linocut?

One of the most appealing aspects of linocut is its simplicity, making it an excellent choice for home artists. Personally, I gravitated towards linocut for this very reason. Unlike other printmaking techniques that often require complex setups or a plethora of tools, linocut is beautifully straightforward. With minimal equipment, you can transform a simple piece of linoleum into a stunning work of art right from your kitchen table or home studio. This ease of access not only makes linocut a practical choice but also opens up a world of creative possibilities for anyone, regardless of their artistic background or experience.

Can You Lino Print at Home?

Absolutely, lino printing can be done at home with just a few basic, affordable tools. Among various relief printmaking methods, linoleum block printing stands out as one of the most user-friendly and easiest to pick up from home.

Whether your goal is to craft homemade Christmas cards or delve into lino print art, our step-by-step guide for beginners will set you on the right path. Due to its approachable nature, many artists choose lino printing as their introduction to printmaking.

Sustainable Printmaking Guide

What Equipment Do You Need for Lino Printing?

  • Linoleum Block – My preference is grey lino backed with Hessian due to the detail it captures.
  • Lino Cutting Tools – Over the years I have used a range of cutting tools, my preference are Pfeil cutting tools due to quality of detail you can cut.
  • Lino Printing Ink – I swear by Cranfield Caligo Inks, these inks offer the quality of oil based inks that can be washed with warm soapy water for easy clean up.
  • Paper – For hand printing I recommend lightweight paper around 60gsm to 160gsm, if to heavy then it will be harder to print by hand.
  • Printmaking Brayer (ink roller) – Personally I use a Japanese printmaking brayer, however the Essdee red handle rollers are a good roller to start with.
  • Baren / Wooden Spoon – I use a glass Iron Frog Baren which I had to order from the USA (worth every penny), however a wooden spoon will do the job when starting out.
  • Glass or Perspex Sheet – This is handy to roll ink onto, I have a few old shelves from a fridge, the glass is usually reinforced.
  • Hand Scraper / Palette Knife – Very handy to be able to get the ink out of the pot and work it before rolling ink out.
  • Pencil – Always handy to move an inked lino block about or help plan out any further edits.
  • Carbon Paper – I use carbon paper to help transfer my design from paper to the lino before cutting, however you can draw your design straight onto the lino.

Read Our Guide About Lino Printing Equipment Explained

The tools and materials needed for this guide

Most of the resources needed for the lino printing process are relatively inexpensive, Hickman Design also sells a range of printmaking equipment and beginner-friendly lino printing kits that include all the essential tools and materials.

Enhancing Craftsmanship with the Right Tools and Equipment

The Efficacy of a Printing Press: While manual methods are accessible and cost-effective, a printing press can significantly enhance the quality and consistency of lino prints. The precision pressure a printing press provides can result in more consistent and professional-looking prints, making it a worthwhile investment for serious practitioners of the craft.

Safety First: Using a Hand Guard: Safety in lino printing cannot be overstated, especially for beginners learning to navigate the sharp tools involved. A safety hand guard is a simple yet effective device that protects fingers during the carving process. It’s essential to advocate for safety measures, including hand guards, to ensure that the creative journey in lino printing is not marred by preventable injuries.

Selecting Quality Block Printing Supplies: The tools and materials used in lino printing can greatly influence the final artwork. High-quality inks, brayers, and carving tools can make the difference between a print that is merely good and one that stands out.

The Role of Tracing Paper and Marker Pens: Tracing paper is an artist’s ally in transferring designs onto lino, providing a translucent medium through which designs can be retraced and refined. When combined with marker pens, which offer bold and definitive lines, tracing paper becomes an even more powerful tool in the lino artist’s repertoire, allowing for precision in design before the carving process begins.

Navigating Soft Cut and Traditional Lino: Soft cut lino, often made from vinyl or similar materials, is easier to carve and thus, perfect for beginners or those working on detailed prints. Traditional lino, while requiring more effort to carve, holds fine lines well and can create prints with a classic, textured look.

How to Make a Linocut – The Lino Printing Process Step by Step

Discover the step-by-step process of linocut printing with our easy guide. Check out the infographic below, perfect for sharing and printing. Follow the detailed steps listed below the infographic to learn each phase of creating a linocut print, from design to final press. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, this guide has everything you need to get started.

Dive into linoleum printing with the below guides, distilled from my personal experience in lino printing. Accompanied by helpful video tutorials in key sections, these steps are designed for optimal results. Follow them in order to unlock your artistic potential in linocut art:

Gather Materials

  • Collect linoleum block, cutting tools, ink, paper, brayer, baren, glass sheet, scraper, pencil, and carbon paper.

Prepare Workspace – Setting up Studio and Workspace

Design Image – Planning Your Linoleum Print

  • Draw your design on paper and transfer it to the linoleum block with carbon paper. In this guide, I’ll share insights on how to design your linocut, whether you’re using an existing image or crafting a hand-drawn design.

Transferring Your Design onto the Linoleum

Carve Linoleum – How to Cut Lino

  • Carefully carve out the design using the cutting tools. This guide will demonstrate how to skilfully carve your linoleum blocks and get the best results from your linocut.

Ink the Block – How to Ink Your Linoleum

Print Design – Printing Your Linocut

  • Place paper on the inked block and press evenly with a baren or spoon. This guide offers advice on how to achieve the best results when printing your linocut with a baren.

Dry and Finish – Clean-Up After Lino Printing

Designing and cutting linocut

Embracing Creativity & Experiment with Lino Printing

Lino printing serves as a vibrant playground for artists, inviting them to explore and experiment with their creative instincts. This journey encourages the fearless pursuit of personal expression, allowing for the discovery and development of one’s unique artistic voice.

  • Experimentation is Key: Dive into the array of designs and techniques available in lino printing, embracing each project as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Innovate and Explore: Challenge conventional boundaries by experimenting with ink colours, textures, and mixed media, turning each piece into a testament to your creativity.
  • Learn and Adapt: Every attempt, successful or otherwise, is a learning experience, pushing you to adapt and refine your approach to art.

In lino printing, creativity knows no bounds. Embrace this freedom, and let your artistic explorations lead the way.

Lino Printing Resources

For those passionate about mastering the art of lino printing, we provide meticulous guides for every facet of the technique. As you journey through our materials, look for hyperlinks that lead you to these extensive tutorials, guaranteeing proficiency in each phase of your lino printing journey. Conveniently, these guides are also linked in the boxes below.

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 Presses

Click here to find out about printmaking presses.

Disposing of Old Lino

Click here to find out about disposing old lino.

Printmaking Books

Click here to find books on printmaking.

Lino Printing Artists

Click here to find lino printing artists.

Further Learning Resources on Lino Printing

Dive deeper into the world of lino printing with a curated selection of resources designed to enhance your skills and inspire your projects.

Online Tutorials and Lino Printing Workshops: Explore a variety of online tutorials that cater to all skill levels, offering step-by-step guidance and expert tips.

Design Inspiration: Discover endless design ideas through online galleries, artist portfolios, and social media platforms dedicated to lino printing.

Equip yourself with these resources to navigate the exciting path of lino printing with confidence and creativity.

Challenges and Common Mistakes in Lino Printing

Lino printing, like any artistic technique, has its set of challenges, particularly for newcomers. Adeptly navigating these pitfalls can be the difference between a print that sings and one that falls flat.

Potential Pitfalls For Beginners:

  • Uneven Ink Coverage: Inconsistent ink application can result in patchy designs. Ensure your ink is spread evenly on the tray and the lino block for consistent prints.
  • Blurred Edges or Smudging: The finished print lacks sharpness. Maintain stability while placing and removing paper from the inked lino. A registration system can help.
  • Difficulty Carving Fine Details: Struggling with intricate details? Always keep your carving tools sharp and consider softening the lino for easier carving.
  • Paper Sticking to Lino: If the paper adheres too strongly, it may be due to excessively wet or thick ink. Adjust ink consistency and drying times accordingly.
  • Lino Block Movement: A shifting lino block can result in mistakes. Secure the lino with non-slip mats or double-sided tape for a stable carving surface.
  • Ink Adhesion Issues: If ink beads up or doesn’t spread evenly, the lino may be oily. Clean the block with detergent or white spirit before inking.

Tips To Avoid Common Errors:

  • Gradual Progression: Begin with simpler designs. As your confidence grows, tackle more intricate patterns, honing your skills incrementally.
  • High-Quality Tools: Quality tools, such as professional-grade carving tools and brayers, can prevent many beginner issues.
  • Maintain a Clean Workspace: Always clean up residual ink and debris post-printing. A clean work area ensures clearer prints.
  • Join a Community: The lino printing community is a rich source of knowledge. Seek advice from seasoned artists, attend workshops, or participate in online groups.
  • Always Test: Before diving into the final print, make some test impressions. This can highlight issues with ink consistency, carving depth, or paper quality, allowing for adjustments.

By immersing yourself in the nuances of lino printing and preemptively addressing possible challenges, novices can swiftly enhance their skill set, producing captivating prints in the process.

Lino Printing FAQ’s & Quick Facts

Exploring the Influence of Renowned Artists on Lino Printing

Pablo Picasso and Modern Art’s Printmaking Legacy: Pablo Picasso’s foray into linocut art in the 1950s and 1960s brought a fresh perspective to this traditional form, with his bold and expressive styles. Picasso’s linocuts are particularly noted for their vibrant colors and the reduction method he employed, where a single block is used to print multiple colors. This technique is a testament to the possibilities inherent in lino printing and serves as an inspiration for artists seeking to innovate within the medium.

Angie Lewin and the Natural World: Angie Lewin is a celebrated artist whose distinctive lino prints, often inspired by the clifftops and saltmarshes of the Scottish Highlands, showcase the medium’s capacity to render intricate natural details. Her work embodies a harmonious blend of the modern and the traditional, influencing lino print artists to explore the beauty in nature’s patterns.

Contemporary Voices: Holly Cook, Sam Marshall, and Meg Buick: Emerging artists like Holly Cook, Sam Marshall, and Meg Buick bring new life and perspectives to lino printing. Cook’s lino prints radiate with a sense of playful narrative, Marshall’s work often features a stark, minimalist aesthetic, while Buick’s use of lino in her prints demonstrates a fluid, almost ethereal quality. These artists illustrate the medium’s versatility and its ability to convey a wide array of artistic expressions.

Read more about Lino Printing Artists

Deepening Technical Knowledge in Lino Printing Techniques

Colour Linocut’s Vibrant Complexity: Colour linocut is a complex process that involves using multiple lino blocks or layers to create a multicoloured print. This technique can produce vibrant prints with a rich depth of color.

Lino Printing within Relief Printmaking: As a subset of relief printmaking, lino printing shares its lineage with woodblock printing and engraving. It is defined by the principle of cutting away parts of the surface that are not to be inked, leaving a raised area that creates the image.

Read more about the process of lino printing

A Brief History of Lino Printing

Linoleum’s Journey from Floor to Fine Art

Linoleum, a material originally patented in the 19th century, was designed to meet the demands of a growing middle class for a durable yet affordable floor covering. Its composition—a concoction of linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, and cork dust pressed onto a burlap backing—lent it the flexibility and resilience appreciated in domestic and industrial settings. However, it was this very practicality and the ease with which it could be cut and manipulated that caught the eye of artists by the early 20th century.

As a medium for artistic expression, linoleum was initially embraced by the German Expressionists, who found in it an alternative to the traditional—and often more expensive—woodcut. Its uniform texture allowed for smoother, more fluid lines, and its softness permitted quicker and less laborious carving. By the time of the Bauhaus movement, linoleum’s potential was being explored in earnest, turning it from a common floor material to a revolutionary tool for artistic innovation.

Post World War II, linoleum art enjoyed a period of popularity in schools due to its affordability and the relatively safe and easy process of carving it compared to wood. This period solidified lino’s place in the art education sector, where it remains a staple to this day. Moreover, its role in the DIY and craft movements from the 1950s onwards has secured linoleum a position as a democratic medium, accessible to all levels of society and skill.

This journey of linoleum from the floor to the fine art gallery underscores a broader narrative about the democratization of art materials and the ingenuity of artists in repurposing everyday materials to create meaningful, enduring art.

Printmaking in the 20th Century

The 20th century heralded a significant shift in the art world with the advent of modernism, and printmaking was no exception. The century saw an explosion of interest in the graphic arts, with advances in technology and a spirit of experimentation leading to a proliferation of printmaking techniques and styles. Artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who were already pushing the boundaries of painting and sculpture, turned to printmaking to explore new forms of expression.

Picasso, ever the innovator, brought his distinctive vision to linocut, producing vibrant compositions that were at once a departure from and a continuation of his paintings. Matisse, in his later years, turned to the cut-out technique, which, while not printmaking in the traditional sense, shared with linocut the process of carving into a material to create an image.

The era also saw the rise of printmaking collectives and workshops, such as the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico, which became centers of political and social expression. Printmaking’s accessibility and reproducibility made it an ideal medium for disseminating ideas and engaging with a broader audience.

In the United States, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed artists during the Great Depression to create prints, many of which were linocuts, for public buildings. This initiative not only provided employment for artists but also helped to cultivate a culture of art appreciation among the American public.

This period of innovation was also marked by the introduction of new materials and techniques, allowing for greater complexity and a broader range of textures and effects in printmaking. The result was that by the mid-20th century, printmaking was firmly established as a fine art, with artists using these techniques to create works that were as valued and sought after as paintings and sculptures.

The 20th century, therefore, was not just a renaissance for printmaking but a period in which the medium was redefined. Artists were no longer seen as craftsmen but as innovators and intellectuals, using printmaking as a tool to explore the aesthetic, cultural, and political dimensions of the modern world.

Read more about the history of printmaking

Luke Hickman

Author at Hickman Design

Luke Hickman is a printmaker and artist with over 15 years of experience. He studied at Norwich University, graduating with a BA (Hons) Fine Art, and has worked in both the commercial printing and digital marketing industries for over 7 years. Luke’s work revolves around the idea of creating art that can illustrate a story with topics covering war, politics and history.

Read Full Bio

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