What is Lino Printing?
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. You can learn how to handprint cards for Christmas or birthdays, artworks or whatever you want!
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.
Read the list below to see the basics of the lino printing process and what is contained in this lino printing guide.
|1.||Creating and planning out your design|
|2.||Transfer your design onto your block of lino|
|3.||Cut and carve your design out of the lino|
|4.||Ink your lino block to be ready for printing|
|5.||Print your lino cut onto paper or textiles|
|6.||Clean up all equipment and admire your work|
Help Improve This Lino Printing Guide!
You can checkout the Reddit Printmaking Forum where this guide is featured 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.
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.
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.
|Fabriano||Fabriano 300gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 700mm x 500mm|
|Somerset||Somerset 300gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 560mm x 760mm|
|Fabriano Rosaspina||Fabriano Rosaspina 285gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 700mm x 500mm|
|Zerkall Printing Paper|
|Snowdon Printing Paper|
|Hosho Japanese Paper|
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.
|Pros of Oil Based Inks||Cons of Oil Based Inks|
|Ink is rich in colour||Clean up uses chemicals|
|Does not dry quickly on rollers or plate/block||More expensive & costly|
|Less flecking (Paper showing through ink)||Can cause a mess if on clothing or shoes|
|Waterproof inks don’t run when wet||Longer drying times|
|Pros of Water Based Inks||Cons of Water Based Inks|
|Cheaper than oil based ink||Dry quickly on your plate|
|Easy cleanup with warm soapy water||Colour is not as dense|
|Quick drying time of prints||Not all ink is of great quality/density|
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.
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.
The Lino Printing Process Step by Step
Step 1 - Designing Your Lino Print
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)
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
Step 2 – Transferring Your Design onto the Lino
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
Step 3 – How to Cut Lino
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
Step 4 - Inking Your Lino
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
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
Step 5 - Printing Your Lino Cut
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
Step 6 - Clean Up
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.
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.
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.