Linoleum Block Printmaking

Transferring the Image to the Block

To keep the image exactly:

  • Trace image onto tracing paper.
  • Using a pencil, put graphite behind drawing on the other side of tracing paper (or use carbon paper)
  • Tape tracing drawing to front of block. 
  • Redraw drawing onto the block.
  • Using a sharpie or pencil, add details to the picture on block.

To have the image flipped when printed:

  • Put graphite on the back of the drawing.
  • Tape drawing to block.
  • Redraw image onto block. 
  • Take off drawing, add details with a sharpie or pencil

Cutting the Block

  • In order to see where you have carved an optional step is to paint the surface with diluted red acrylic paint, so it’s easier to see what has been carved.
  • Decide what will be black and what will be white, and mark it if necessary.
  • If linoleum plate moves too much, use rubber shelf or rug liner underneath
  • Work on one area at a time, then go to another area (start with the details or hardest parts so if you mess up you can start again)
  • If linoleum gets hard to carve, warm it up with a heating pad, microwave oven, hair dryer, or by placing it on concrete in the sun.
  • Check your progress by using graphite and making a rubbing. 

Using the Cutting Tools

  • Hold the tool at an almost parallel angle to the block. Keep your index finger near the blade to gain more control of the cutting motion.
  • Use slow continuous motions to carve, don’t hurry, cutting takes time. You can wiggle the blade back and forth slightly to help the blade go through the linoleum
  • When cutting curved lines, keep the tool going in a straight line, and move the linoleum to make the curve.
  • Turn the linoleum so that the area you are working on is closest to you.
  • Point tools directed away from your body
  • One method of working is to use a veiner (knife/blade) to go around an area, and then use a U or V shaped gouge to remove the linoleum.
  • Be sure your thinner lines are deep enough by going over then twice, thin lines can easily fill up with ink, and become hard to print. 
  • All the linoleum doesn’t need to be cut away for the area to be white on the print, so deep cutting is unnecessary.

Inking the Plate/Block

  • Using a brush, take off loose pieces of linoleum off the plate. 
  • You may want to wear gloves.
  • Roll brayer in ink until ink evenly coats brayer. Roll in both horizontal and vertical directions. Use the “Pet the Cat” method– going in just one direction repeatedly (not back and forth).
  • Add more ink if “tacky” sound is not heard, the ink should not be too thick or too thin, it should look velvety.
  • Roll the brayer onto a lino plate, make a pass both horizontally and vertically. You may need to re-ink the brayer to ensure there is enough ink on the brayer. Use even pressure, but don’t press too hard.
  • Look at the plate sideways to see that the plate is evenly coated with ink.
  • Using a small brayer, go around edges of plate to make sure they are inked.

Printing by Hand

  • You can place the block onto the paper or the paper onto the block.
  • Once the paper and block meet, go with gusto, don’t remove it or you will ruin your print.
  • You can use a registration board to position the print on the paper.
  • Once the paper is on the inked plate/block, rub it with your hands to make it stick, then place a scrap paper over your print paper and burnish the surface with the back of a spoon.
  • Lift one corner to check the ink has transferred.
  • If the print is light, you can rub harder/longer, but you may not have enough ink.
  • Too much ink and the ink will bleed beyond the image
  • Remove the print from one corner to the opposite corner and lay aside to dry. Water-based inks will dry within 1-2 hours, oil-based inks take at least 24 hours.

Cleaning Up

  • Roll the brayer onto old phone book pages to remove the ink, then tear off the pages and throw in the trash. Tear off pages to wipe down the table.
  • Scrape excess ink off the table with a scraper, then clean the ink that is left with straight liquid dish detergent, followed by Simple Green. 
  • Clean the brayer with liquid soap.
  • If you are using oil based inks, use a solvent like Citrisol on the table but just let the brayer dry without using solvent (it will deteriorate the rubber brayer)

Supplies & Resources

  • Paper:
    • Strathmore Pre-cut Printmaking Paper, in pads
    • Rice-paper from Daiso/Otos
    • Rives Lightweight
    • Rising Stonehenge – 22” x 30”, $2.15 a thicker paper, used in a press
    • Masa  – 21” x 31” $1.18 Japanese Paper, good for hand printing
    • Mohawk Superfine Text  – 26” x 40” $2.23 Smooth and off white color, for printing on a press
    • Rives Lightweight – 19” x 26”, or 26” x 40”, $2.20, $4.50 a good all around paper
    • Rives BFK – 259 gsm, $4.95, a thicker paper, good for many printmaking techniques
  • Blocks
    • University Art Sacramento or Dick Blick: Battleship Grey Linoleum or Gold Cut Linoleum. This can be unmounted or mounted on plywood- either is fine.
    • Soft-Kut or Easy Carve – similar to white eraser material, very easy to carve, but too soft for a press.
    • Wonder Cut Linoleum – soft pebbly surface
    • Gomuban, an easy to carve green rubber plate, more firm than eraser-type materials, can be printed on a press. You can use both sides.
  • Ink
    • Any of the Speedball or Blick brand printmaking inks, Gamblin relief ink
    • Graphic Chemical 159 Water Soluble Black, Caligo Safe wash Black Ink (oil based, water cleanup)
  • Cutting Tools
    • Speedball lino carving tools
    • Power Grip Tools, $30.00 for a 5 piece set, or individually at Amazon
  • Resources
    • Myrtle Press at Verge has presses you can rent and classes
    • Sac City College has great printmaking classes
    • Crocker Art Museum has classes and examples
    • Facebook Groups
    • Linocut Friends
    • Printmakers Unite
    • Relief Printing Forum
    • The Relief Printmaker’s Group