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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.
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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.
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.
Hot soapy water to clean Lino.
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.
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.
|Carbon Paper||x150 Carbon Paper Sheets|
|Pencils||Faber-Castell 9000 Art Set - 12 x Pencils|
|Permanent Marker (Fine Tip)||Staedtler Black Superfine Permanent Marker - 3 x Pens|
|Rubbers/Erasers||Staedtler Mars Plastic Rubbers - 5 x Rubbers|
|Sketching Paper||Seawhite A4 140gsm - 1 x Sketchbook|
|Printing Paper||Fabriano Rosaspina | Snowdon | Somerset | Strathmore Printmaking Paper|
|Art Grade Lino / Lino Block||Speedball Speedy Carve Block (US) 9"X11.75" | Soft Lino Block (UK) - 10 Sheets 150mm x 100mm | Lino Printing Blocks A3, A4, A5, A6, 3.2 mm Thick (A3 / pack of 4)|
|Cutting Mat||ANSIO A2 Cutting Mat|
|Lino Cutting Tools||Essdee 3 in 1 Lino Cutter and Baren Kit - x 10 Cutters Styles|
|Stanley/Utility Knife||Stanley 18mm Snap Off Knife|
|Metal Ruler||Jakar Aluminium Ruler Stainless Steel Cutting Edge - 300mm|
|Glass/Perspex Sheet||Perspex Clear Acrylic Sheet - 3mm|
|Lino Ink Roller||Speedball 4-inch, Soft Rubber Roller|
|Lino/Block Printing Inks||Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink - 75ml Tube Black | 1 x 300ml Water Based Lino Printing Ink Black|
|Rags/Paper Towels||Sirius Blue Roll - 6 x Rolls|
|MDF Board to Back Lino Sheet||MDF Board - 1 Board 6mm x 210mm x 297mm|
|Lino Printing Barren||Speedball Red Baron Baren 4-inch|
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.
|Easy Cut (Black) - Low Detail Designs For Beginners||Soft 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 Lino||Essdee Art Lino 2 Sheets 305mm x 203mm|
|Zieler Easy Carve Lino||Zieler Easy Carve Lino 5 Sheets 210mm x 148mm|
|Battleship Grey||Hessian Backed (Grey) - 5 Sheets 300mm x 200mm|
|Essdee Mounted Lino||Essdee Mounted Lino - 2 Sheets 75mm x 75mm|
|Artway Soft Cut Polymer Sheets||Artway Soft Cut Polymer Sheets - 3 Sheets 594mm x 420mm|
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.
READ THIS IF NOT USING A PRESS: Check out this great guide on the choosing the best paper for lino printing by hand by Boarding All Rows if you are using a Baren for hand printing.
|Fabriano||Fabriano 300gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 700mm x 500mm|
|Fabriano||Fabriano UNICA Printmaking Paper 250gsm - 40 Sheets 380mm x 280mm|
|Fabriano||Fabriano UNICA Printmaking Paper 250gsm - 10 Sheets 700mm x 500mm|
|Pro-Art Strathmore||Pro-Art Strathmore Printmaking Paper 120gsm - Pad 279mm x 356mm|
|Pro-Art Strathmore||Pro-Art Strathmore Printmaking Paper 280gsm - Pad 200mm x 254mm|
|Somerset||Somerset 300gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 560mm x 760mm|
|Fabriano Rosaspina||Fabriano Rosaspina 285gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 700mm x 500mm|
|Speedball Paper||Speedball Fine Printmaking 45gsm Paper - 25 Sheets 220mm x 330mm|
|Zerkall Printing Paper|
|Snowdon Printing Paper|
|Hosho Japanese Paper|
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 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|
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.
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 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.
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.