Linocut Printmaking DIY Tutorial
Linocut is a printing method using a sheet of linoleum, in which you cut out pieces of linoleum where you want white on the page and keep parts of linoleum where you want ink to be. The result is that you can print the same image over and over again. Many famous artists have made linocuts, such as Pablo Picasso.
Linocut is easier than printing with wood blocks. Linoleum doesn’t have a grain like wood does, which means you can cut in any direction. Also, it is easier to cut than wood, especially when it is heated. While it may not be a durable as wood, it’s still possible to make thousands of prints with a linoleum block.
Sheet of linoleum, 5 x 5 inches is ideal for beginners
Block printing tools (I recommend Speedball)
A large piece of glass, 12 x 12 inches. You can usually find this at your local hardware store. I recommend putting duct tape around the edges of the glass to keep it from cutting anything or anyone.
A brayer that’s at least 3 inches wide
Paper. Thin paper works best.
Step One: Come up with a design for your print.
Make a drawing that’s about the same size as your linoleum block. Try to avoid doing a drawing that has tiny details, at least for your first print. A good test is to trace your drawing with a sharpie marker, as that is the line width you will probably achieve.
Also, I recommend putting a border on your first design. It’s much easier to roll over a block with a border.
Tip: The image the block will print is reversed. Therefore, if you put any letters or numbers in your drawing, you will need to draw them backwards so that when you print them, they will look right!
Step Two: Transfer your image to your block.
Tape a piece of transfer paper over your block, then tape your drawing over that. Trace over your image so that it can be transferred to the block.
Step Three: Cut!
Cut out the places where there isn’t any transfer pigment. Start cutting away your negative space, or the part of your linocut print you want to show the white of the page, with no ink.
Remember that you are cutting with sharp tools, so you must take safety precautions. Always cut away from you, and be aware of your hands at all times. It’s easy to get so caught up in what you are doing that you accidentally cut your hand. If you do get cut, make sure you clean and bandage the wound right away.
Step Four: Ink your block.
Put about a spoonful of ink on your glass surface. Roll the ink out with your brayer. It may take a couple of minutes to get the ink completely smooth. You are aiming for a texture that looks velvety. When you roll across it and you hear a slight hissing noise, you are on the right track. You want the ink to spread evenly across the glass. Make sure to switch the direction you roll to get an even coat on your brayer.
Use your brayer to roll the ink onto your linocut.
Start at one end of the block and roll across it. Don’t stop in the middle, because this will cause a texture to appear on your print. If you need more ink, roll the brayer in the ink and then come back to your block. I recommend starting with three passes and see if that prints well. From there, you can figure out if you need more or less ink on your plate.
Step Five: Print your block.
Gently place your paper across your block. If it ends up not centered, don’t try to move it as this will ruin your print. Instead, you can come back later and cut the edges of the paper until it’s centered.
Once the paper is on, start in the center and press the paper down. This is so the ink will latch onto the paper and hold it in place. Start rubbing the paper down into the print. I recommend doing circular motions at the top of your print and working your way down to the bottom. You can do this with your hands, but it’s easier to use something with a smooth back, like a wooden spoon.
Once you are done, it’s time to check your work. From one end, peel your paper off your print. Don’t do this too quickly or you risk the chance of ripping your paper. Once it’s done, you can see what improvements need to be made. If it looks like the ink was spilling into your lines, then you need to use less ink. If the print looks faded or splotchy, you might need to use more pressure or more ink.
Step Six: Enjoy!
Keep working on prints until you get whatever desired results you’re going for. When you are done, don’t forget to put your name and date below the print. You can also put the name of your drawing under it, if you want.
There are many different printmaking techniques out there. This tutorial is just scratching the surface of what you can do. If you are interested in learning more printmaking, you can check out classes from local colleges.Lewis and Clark Community College offers a fantastic printmaking course, where you can learn how to do intaglio, multi color prints and more.
Written by Helen Jarden. Photographed by Shelby L. Clayton Photography.