Picture of How to Make Linocuts!
Purpose: The purpose of this instructable is to teach YOU how to make a linocut of your very own.

What is a Linocut?: Linocuts are very similar to woodcuts. It is a printing method using a sheet of linoleum, in which a subtractive cutting method is used to take away the parts of linoleum where you want to leave the white of the page, and keep the parts you want to be inked! In the result you have a linocut that can reproduce the same image over and over again.

A Short History: While linoleum was first invented in the 1860s, it wasn't used as a medium for printing until the early 1900s in Germany, where it was first used for making patterns on wallpaper! Artists ranging from Pablo Picasso to Henri Matisse have made linocuts, and today it is considered a respected art form. Linocuts are also very popular in teaching children in schools about the rewarding art of printmaking.

Why linocuts?: First off, linoleum does not have a grain like wood does, meaning there is no need to cut in one direction. Also, it is much, MUCH easier to cut than wood, especially when heated. Although linoleum is not quite as durable as wood, you can still make hundreds if not thousands of copies of the same image with a single linocut before it is too degraded to use. Linocuts generally remind me of illustrated children books, which is a style I very much like. One can even make several linocuts to be used together to make a print including color, and in some cases (depending on the ink and paper you use) a linocut print can be colored after wards with your medium of choice.

So lets get started!

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davee52uk4 years ago
1. Is it possible to use acrylic paint instead of printing ink ? I tried this yesterday but results were not good.

2. It is possible to do the same kind of thing using balsa wood. It is just as quick as lino but there is a problem of cutting across the grain. Balsa is  cheaper than lino so it is good for trying out designs before committing to lino. Balsa does work with acrylics

3. Even cheaper, in fact free, is to use styrofoam. This is used as food packaging. In the UK. It is used for boxes for takeaway food and for packaging pizzas.
Styrofoan is quick and will take acrylics if it is sealed with printing ink first.
  1. everything's possible, but i wouldn't recommend it. it's a different consistency and bonds to the roller and the block differently, dries quickly, and can mess everything up when it dries. i'm not sure why you'd want to use it in the first place, though.
  2. balsa wood is easy to carve, but it quickly degrades with use. and it's super absorbent, so the wood will actually swell and splinter and it's much harder to get a crisp image. The texture of the surface itself can also make for sloppy prints. if you want to try out a design, simply draw it, if it's not working as a drawing it probably won't work as a print. if you want to make a woodblock print, though, pine is usually the softest wood you can get that is still strong enough to survive the printing process
  3. same deal as balsa, it's just not strong enough to survive printing, also the texture. I'm not quite sure why you want to use acrylic, though... shirts maybe? ink works fine for fabric. it doesn't sit on top like paint (or normal plastisol ink t-shirts, where you can feel the image on the fabric), but it absorbs into the fabric and stays.
GraduallyGreener (author)  davee52uk4 years ago
 1. I have heard it is, but I personally haven't tried. It probably depends on the type of acrylic. If I have some left over from a painting class I'm in right now I'll try it!

2. I have heard using Balsa wood, but I just figured it would be harder to use considering one has to consider the grain and I think it might dull your blades down a little quicker.

3. We have styrofoam here as well, though I've never tried it. Generally speaking I stay away from the stuff because it is pretty horrible for the enviornment, but finding a way to reuse it would be nice. I feel like it would be too easy to cut though, and that I would be bound to make more mistakes than I do with linoleum.
valkgurl1 year ago
If you have one of the counter top "pastry boards" with a "lip" on the edge that hangs over the counter top--USE IT for this as you brace the blocks against the lip that is on TOP of the counter. Of course you can add a lip on both edges of a wood cutting board or piece of plywood to make one. Do NOT place fingers in FRONT of your blade! This will help eliminate the dreaded--and dreadful--Finger Mangling. I have scars from this from 30 years ago!

I wouldn't trade them but---better to prevent.

You can also use a SHARP X-Acto knife to go AROUND the outline of your design sections as a guide line---you will not cut PAST that and it helps keep your edges crisp.

If you play with this tech you will find that different blades leave many different edges and can be used for many different designs not just to remove the lino. Some I like are to leave the top "ridges" inbetween the cuts for texture. You can also "chip" away at the spots you want to for texture. it is hard to fix a small area if you mess up. But if you mess up a larger area you can carve out the whole section and glue on a NEW piece of lino and re-carve.

For the styrofoam "carving" you don't actually carve--you just use something like a blunt pencil to impress the design--good for kids. There is a 'tute here for that!

You can also print make using CRAFT FOAM--do a design; cut to fit a piece of scrap paneling or plywood or cardboard (if you only want to make a few copies) and glue on and ink. You can use this for Fabric Printing with acrylics and Fabric Medium (so the ink is not too stiff and scratchy) .
pmshrink2 years ago
Lovely instructions. Could add using a baren or a wooden spoon for smoothing the paper down.
jrobinson133 years ago
Great site on linocut. Do you mind if I use your owl image and this site to show my college level survey of printmaking class?? I will give all appropriate credits.
GraduallyGreener (author)  jrobinson133 years ago
I don't mind at all! Go for it!
Thanks for making the supply list clear. It helped make my first cuts :D
(18" x 4')

klawson13 years ago
Another way to do it is to put the inked block on top of the paper and roll over it gently with a clean roller, being sure to get every nook and cranny.
klawson13 years ago
What I find to be a good indicator of well-rolled ink is the sound the ink makes when it's being rolled over. It'll almost sound like masking tape being peeled off of paper.
davee52uk4 years ago
Also I use paper from my office for prints. This has been used on one side but works O.K. on the other - again free.

Heavier art paper may need wetting a bit but the office paper can be used staright off.
You do not use wet paper for lino cuts as it has "lots" of ink on the surface compared to other ways of printing.
Printmaking paper has less sizing (read glue to hold paper together) that would be the big difference in the ability to transfer ink to the paper.

The amount of ink that can be transferred has to do with the amount of pressure applied to the block as well. I have used printmaking paper and water color paper as well as drawing paper with great results. It does seem that it takes some time for the block to season and transfer the ink better. .
GraduallyGreener (author)  davee52uk4 years ago
 I have used office paper before, and while it doesn't look horrible, I find that unless the print is mainly empty space with a few lines, the paper warps as the ink dries.
Nice. This brought back some memories for me... I remember doing this at camp when I was a kid!
whitehawk4 years ago
This is a great tutorial!! Thanks so much. Also love your focus on safety :) 
GraduallyGreener (author)  whitehawk4 years ago
 Thanks! Safety is very important! About a week ago I was carving a large 16' x 20' piece of linoleum for a final project at university. I was talking to a friend and not paying attention and gave myself a nasty cut on my palm. Very deep, I almost got stitches! But right before we hopped in the car it stopped bleeding, so I opted for anti-biotic cream and a band aid.

This is usually more of an issue for people like me, who are incredibly clumsy. Still, better safe than sorry!
LittleWolf4 years ago
 Owls! =D

What's your experience with carving words in this medium? I don't mean the tiny little ones, but a good sizable chunk of font.
thepelton4 years ago

This gives me an idea.  I have an Epilog laser, and I was thinking of using it to make woodcuts. 

GraduallyGreener (author)  thepelton4 years ago
 I'll be honest, I know nothing about Epilog lasers. However, I would assume that it would make more accurate cuts, as well as making woodcutting much easier. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
bettbee4 years ago
That soft lino block stuff is great. Just be a little careful not to push hard, it takes almost no pressure to cut it. The best thing is that it minimizes cutting yourself! Better to ruin the block than injure yourself. Since it takes a good bit of pressure to cut linoleum, if the blade skips out of the lino and into your hand, it's going to cut deep. I know this from experience.

The easy cut stuff also can be made into shaped blocks with ease, giving more flexibility and possibility for modular designs.
sir_yoda4 years ago
Very cool
GraduallyGreener (author)  sir_yoda4 years ago
 Thank you!