Linoleum printing is a fun and inexpensive way to make prints in the comfort of your own home. Working in black-and-white produces bold, powerful images while minimizing the cost of materials such as ink. With a few tools and a little creativity, you'll soon be on your way to crafting some beautiful works of art.
Step 1: Materials
Here's what you need to get started. You can find these tools at your local artist's supply store or online:
- Linoleum cutter and blades
- Artist's linoleum
- Block printing ink
- Helpful hints:
- Speedball produces a nice linoleum cutter kit that includes a handle and several interchangeable blades. The blades vary in size and produce different types of cuts, from fine, delicate cuts ideal for detail, to broader, shovel-like ones better suited to carving out larger areas of material.
- Artist's linoleum is available in a variety of grades, from very soft, eraser-like textures to firmer surfaces. If you're just starting out, use the softer grade. If you'd like to create more detailed images, use a firmer texture.
- The consistency of block printing ink is similar to butter. I'd recommend getting water-soluble ink, as this is easier to clean.
- Brayer: This is what you use to roll out your ink. To minimize mess I put my ink on my piece of Plexiglas.
- Paper: You can use all kinds of paper for printing, but you'll want something strong enough to handle the pressure of your hand rubbing over it.
Step 2: Optional Materials
Tracing paper and transfer paper can be helpful when getting your designs onto the linoleum block, but aren't necessary.
Step 3: Create Your Design
- Determine which design you'd like to use to make your print. Since you're working in black-and-white, be sure to create an image that stands on its own without color.
- In making your design, keep in mind how much carving you want to do. In a black-and-white relief print, the white parts of the paper represent the spaces that have been carved away, so the more paper you want to have visible, the more carving you'll need to do. Sometimes it helps to color in the areas you want to carve out in black to create a negative version of the print, as shown here.
- When making your design, have it facing in the opposite direction from how you'd like it to appear in the final print, as the image will get reversed during the printing process. This is where tracing paper becomes helpful, as you'll be able to flip the image easily.
Step 4: Transfer Your Design to the Linoleum Block
- Once you are satisfied with your design, you can transfer it onto the linoleum block by drawing directly onto it with a pencil or pen. If you don't want to eyeball your work, insert a sheet of transfer paper between the linoleum block and design, then trace over the design with a pen or pencil. This will transfer an exact replica of your initial design onto the linoleum.
Step 5: Carve Your Block
- Using your linoleum cutter, carve out the negative spaces on your design.
- When carving, apply mild to moderate pressure to move the blade forward and through the linoleum. Be sure to carve away from your body at all times. Linoleum blades are very sharp, and you don't want to accidentally cut yourself.
- When carving out large areas, try overlapping your cuts to ensure that you've carved out the area thoroughly.
Step 6: Ink Your Block
- Using a spatula, stirring stick, spoon, or similar tool, take a scoop of your printing ink and apply it to a smooth, flat surface. I like to use Plexiglas because it makes for an easy clean-up afterwards.
- Take your brayer and roll it over the ink. Push the ink in different directions until you've flatted it into a thin, leathery surface, and have covered the roller in an even layer of ink.
- Take your coated brayer and roll it over the block until you've covered the entire surface in ink. Reload the brayer with ink as needed.
Step 7: Print Your Block
- Lay a piece of paper over the block. Rub the paper by hand to transfer the image.
- You can use either damp or dry paper for printing. Dry paper usually involves more rubbing and ink for a successful printing.
- If you don't want to use your hands, you can also set the block on the floor, stand on it, and rub the paper with your feet. If you try this, make sure you're wearing socks, otherwise your feet might stick to the paper.
Step 8: Finish Your Print
- When you have finished rubbing, pull up a corner of the paper to see whether the image has transferred. You may need to rub the print a few times.
- When you are finished, pull the paper off the block. If you want to touch up any white spots, use a small paintbrush loaded with printing ink.
- Voila! Now you have a black-and-white linoleum print!