Linoleum Block / Printmaking




Introduction: Linoleum Block / Printmaking

Please Rate my "Instructable"- Enjoy the World of Printmaking!

"Linocut" is a printmaking technique, a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The cut areas can then be pulled from the backing. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller or (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press

All images under Copyright.


Step 1: Materials


Pen, Marker, Pencil
Linoleum block (linoleum glued to a block of wood)
Wooden boards and screws
Tracing Paper
Transfer Paper
Linoleum-cutting tool
Printers ink
Electric Blanket and Towel (Linoleum is easier to cut when warm)
Rubber Gloves
X-acto Knives
Blue Painters Tape
Light Box
MIneral Spirits
Vegetable Oil
Wooden Spoon

Step 2: Research Linoleum Artists

Research the Techniques of Linoleum Artists.

Here is some history.

The first relief prints can be found in cave paintings. Early man would dip his/her hands in pigments then touch the cave walls. Your fingerprint is an example of a relief print even a muddy footprint can be considered a relief. Early civilizations used of round "cylinder seals" for rolling an impress onto clay tablets goes back to early Mesopotamian civilization before 3,000 BC. The earliest woodblock printed fragments to survive are from China and are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Han dynasty (before AD 220 ). In India the main importance of the technique has always been as a method of printing textiles, which has been a large industry for centuries. In late 10th century China the complete Buddhist canon Tripitaka of 130,000 pages was printed with blocks, which took between 1080 and 1102, and many other very long works were printed. Block-books, where both text and images are cut on blocks, appeared in Europe in the 1460s as a cheaper alternative to books printed by movable type.

Linoleum was a 20th-century development in the art of relief cuts. The linoleum block consists of a thin layer of linoleum mounted on wood; in this the design to be printed is cut in the same manner as for a woodcut. The advantage of linoleum cuts lies in the softness of the material and the consequent ease with which it can be cut.

Irving Amen, American artist

Valenti Angelo, American printmaker & illustrator

Walter Inglis Anderson American artist

Sybil Andrews English/Canadian artist

Georg Baselitz, German artist

Angel Botello, Spanish-Puerto Rican artist

Carlos Cortez American poet and artist

Stanley Donwood, British artist (most famous for his work with British band Radiohead). His work for Thom Yorke's album The Eraser was originally done in linocut.

Bill Fick, American printmaker & illustrator

Jacques Hnizdovsky, Ukrainian-American printmaker, painter, book illustrator and ex libris designer

Henri Matisse, French painter

Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter

Cyril Edward Power, British artist

Ken Sprague, English artist and activist

Folly Cove Designers American design collective

John Paige English artist and member of the Society of Wildlife Artists

Angie Hani artist in the American International School Of Kuwait, Famous Artist

M. C. Escher, Dutch artist known for his mathematically inspired works

John Steins, Canadian artist

Mark Andrew Webber, British Artist, Most famous for his Linocut Map Series of different cities. Also created the New Media Technique of Linomation, which is Hand carved Animation from linoleum.

Step 3: Subject Matter

Find and image that you want to cut into the linoleum. Internet search engines are perfect for this task. The library is even better you can take out entire books of images and scan them in high resolution. Normally I scan images in 300dpi. This allows me to stretch the image to the exact size I need without losing much quality. You can also use a personal drawings or sketches. Just remember if you use an original drawing you may ruin it when tracing it on the linoleum. I suggest making a copy of it. If you know how to use Adobe software that will come in handy. Illustrator and Photoshop are the most useful. Raise the contrast and brightness on the image so there is an obvious difference between the subject matter and the background or what is being cut away. You can also free draw on the block. But remember you have to draw your design backwards.

Step 4: Trace Image on Linoleum

1. Change the image to the necessary dimensions.

2. Reverse the Image on its vertical axis.( The image should be opposite when transferring to linoleum so it prints correctly)

3. Print out the image you can also bring the file on a usb drive to a print shop they usually can print any size you want so you can fit your block no matter what the size.

4. Tape transfer paper on the block. Then tape the printout on top. Only place the tape on the top of the print so you can flip as you trace and see the parts that have already been transferred. Sort or like a hinge. So you can fold the paper back easily and it will lay back down in the same exact place.

5. Use a pencil for this because pens rip through the paper.

6. After the image is transferred go over the lines with a fine permanent marker.

7. Sometimes I take a photo of the traced image. Open it in Photoshop/ Edit/Transform/ Flip Horizontal so you can see the tracing as it will finally appear as a print.

Step 5: Cutting

The first step involves cutting away the white areas of the image. Linoleum printing is essentially a form of stamp printing, so whatever is cut out of the block will not be inked. The cutting tools are V-shaped and U-shaped gouges. ALWAYS CUT AWAY FROM YOURSELF. Cut slowly and and with a smaller gauge. When linoleum gets warm and you have sharp tools it cuts very smoothly and quickly if you slip you can really hurt yourself. I learned the hard way and have the scars to prove it. Just like any blade the sharper it is the easier it is to use and with less effort so sharpen your tools after every project.

This is when the electric blanket comes into play. Place a towel on your workspace then place the electric blanket on a very low setting. Place another towel on top and flip the block face down so you can warm the linoleum so it becomes easier to cut if you do not warm the block the linoleum will flake and your lines will not be precise.

1 is a angled pointed tool and is used for fine lines. This is the tool you use to go around the outline of the stamp you will carve. You may substitute this tool for a craft knife.

2 is a V shaped tool and leaves a fine line in the lino. This tool is essential to lino carving.

3 is a small curved too and again is pretty much essential. It removes a medium amount of lino.

4 is a flat chisel and removes a large area of lino.

5 is a large curved tool and is used for removing larger areas of lino. If you are only planning on making small of intricate stamps this tool can be omitted.

6 Is for straight cuts

You should hold the tool firmly in your hand with your index finger about where the blade is inserted into the handle this helps control. Cutting should be at a 30 degree angle. Buy an extra piece to practice cutting on. Because once you make a cut you cannot fix it easily.

Step 6: Sharpening

Keeping your tools sharp is very important. I suggest you buy a good set of Japanese Woodcutting tools. They are expensive but they will last many years and are high quality. They are very useful not only for linoleum but obviously wood and also pumpkin carving. Many of the high end Japanese Woodcutting tools are made with the same expertise as samurai blade. But I understand most people won't buy expensive tools as a beginner. I use Speedball and Alvin Blades mostly. They are also cheap enough to buy a new blades when they get dull.
But just as easily re sharpened.

You will need a sharpening stone of some kind. There are basically three types available, oil stones, water stones. Whichever type you choose, don't be afraid to buy a decent quality stone, they will last pretty much forever with decent care.

Oil stones are probably the most common. They are abrasive stones intended to be lubricated by oil when being used. They are the least expensive and most commonly available, and provide perfectly good results. Use a sharpening oil, or a general purpose oil, to lubricate them. They are available in many different grits, and also in double sided versions that offer a coarse side and a finer side. I recommend a double sided stone, with a coarse and medium grit (100/700 is a good combination and my preference). If you can only get one grit, go for a finer (700 or so).

Another item that you should keep at hand is a leather strop. They come in handy when you are sharpening, to hone the tool to a fine edge, but they are also great to keep by your side while you are cutting. Running the tool over the strop every so often helps to keep the edge sharp, and will dramatically reduce the time between required sharpenings. A bit of stropping compound also comes in handy.

I prefer water stones. They cost a little more, but they are worth it. You use water to lubricate them rather than oil. Most of them are soaked in a 'bath' of water prior to use. Keep yours in a Tupperware container all the time, so it is always ready to go. They are used in pretty much the same way as an oilstone. Like oilstones, they are available in many grits, I like a 800 and 4000 myself, it allows me to get a very fine edge on my tools. Also, since they don't use oil, the cleanup is a bit easier and you don't end up with oil on your hands, workbench, and linoleum blocks

Look at the diagram

The first picture is a front view of the stone.

The Second and Third are Side views

Begin to sharpen the blade by drawing it in one direction along the stone. You will want to hold it at about a 30-45 degree angle depending on the edge you are after (this is personal preference - some like a sharper angle). Keep the entire width of the cutting edge in contact with the stone to get an even edge.

When you have the edge you want, run it over a leather strop block a few times to fine hone it. You can test the blade in a scrap piece of linoleum or wood, to make sure it 'behaves' as you want it to. You might need to fine-tune the edge.

Step 7: Proofing/ Inking

This is a very important step. Proofing is printing the block before it is completed. This is important because it will show you the flaws in the block and you can fix them. Save your brown paper bags from the supermarket they are great way to do proofs without wasting paper. Save some trees.

Inking the block

Set out your materials: you'll need your block (or blocks), an ink roller, a container with a smooth surface (such as a glass pie plate), ink, and your paper.

Glass Pie Dishes are great because they are pretty cheap and you can have multiple dishes with different color inks. (Remember print lighter colors first and give each color its own roller)

Put on rubber gloves and wear clothes you don't care about ( Oil ink is permanent!)

Dust off your linoleum block with a paper towel or clean rag ( Wipe away all cut out pieces of linoleum, because they will stick to the roller and it is annoying and will ruin a print)

Squeeze some ink onto your smooth surface use a paint knife to spread or popsicle sticks. ( If you plan on printing the future buy some tins of ink. They are a little more expensive ( they last "forever" if you keep them closed when not in use). Start with a small amount of ink and add more if you need to. Think about it, if you add more then you need you waste more ink plus you have more to clean.

Roll it around with the roller until the roller is evenly and thinly coated ( It should sound like velcro ripping apart when you have the right amount of ink on the roller, too much ink on the roller leaves blobs of ink too little gives a faded print)

Roll the roller back and forth over your linoleum block until the entire surface of the linoleum is coated.

Set the roller down ( Upside down) Because you will get globs ink on the roller.

Be sure your block is anchored correctly. I just get a piece of carpet and cut it to the size of the block and velcro it to the workspace. Then the block won't slide around.

Make sure your hands are clean! Meaning no ink( i use Vegetable Oil to clean my hands. Pick up the paper by the corners and lay it down on the inked block.

Press gently ( Use a brayer or I use the back of a wooden spoon and rub it gently on the paper), but do not wiggle or twist the block - if you twist, the design will smear.) You can also use a press if you have access to one. Read directions because every press is different and they are expensive and you don't want to ruin one. The point is to get the ink transferred to the medium.

Lift the paper off the block and set it down and inspect for flaws. Flaws are great keep all your misprints because you can learn from them.

Place the paper in a safe, clean place to dry.(Buy a drying rack) Or Make one yourself! Or You can take a piece of string and thumbtack both sides to opposing walls so it is tight and get some clothes pins and clip up the prints.

After every print you must re-ink the block or it will be a faded print.

Look at the design and if you are happy with it give it about 3 to 4 days to dry to be safe. Oil ink takes a while to dry up. Do not stack the prints til they are dried completely. Hanging them works best for me they stay out of the way. I suggest even longer dry time for fabrics about 1 week.

Step 8: Cleanup

Wear Gloves! Turn on the ventilation! Open Windows!
1. Scrape
Scape up all ink with razor scraper and put it on a phone page.
Roll out roller and scrape up the excess ink. Repeat.

2. Veggie Oil
Pour some vegetable oil on the glass slab. Roll the inking rollers in the oil.
Wipe up the ink with paper towels. Try to use recycled paper towels or I usually just cut up old T-shirts . Wipe down the ink knives and rollers. MAKE SURE YOU CLEAN THEM WELL. There is nothing worse then spending all that time and your beautiful print has a random blob on it. Use Veggie Oil on your Block too.

3. Simple Green
Spray Simple Green on the glass( The reason I say use Simple Green is some people use Mineral Spirits and if you are doing this for a while you don't want to breath the fumes from Mineral Spirits). Use cut up T-Shirts clean the ink and oil from the glass and ink knives. Make sure all surfaces are clean and free of ink and oil including ink knife edges and handles!

4. Roller Wash
(This Step can be skipped if you did a great job on cleaning off all the ink, but if you forgot to clean your rollers and there is dried ink on them this will dissolve the dry ink). (Get a glass pie dish and add just enough Mineral Spirits to coat the bottom it doesn't take much) And roll them around to coat for about 10 min it should come off easy.

Use Ventilation and Gloves!


Vegetable Oil -Ink
Simple Green -Ink, Vegetable Oil
Mineral Spirits- Ink, Asphaltum, Hard/Soft Ground, Tape Residue
Denatured Alcohol- Intaglio Stop Out, Sharpie Marker, Rosin, Ink
Acetone- Tape Residue, Deep Cleaning Litho Plates, Deletions
Roller Wash- Cleans and rejuvenates rubber rollers

Use pumice soap to get ink off your hands.

Step 9: Enjoy!

Contact me for further assistance or to buy prints and original signed artwork. All images under Copyright.
 Please Rate and Comment/ This is my first Instructable.

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13 years ago on Step 4

I have a very hard time using transfer paper Is there any more tip's you can share? Love your how to.


Reply 5 years ago

I use graphite on the back of the image I want to transfer. Just coat the paper in graphite, from a stick, and put it on the block, then use a pencil to outline on top.


Reply 11 years ago on Step 4

I usually rub the back of my printout with a large piece of graphite I got at the local arts store. Then, I use the printed sheet as a transfer paper, as the graphite will move to the lino when the image is traced.

Hudson Hill
Hudson Hill

Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

Sorry it kinda took so long to get back to you. As far as know you should make sure you keep it taped down very well this helps the paper from ripping


Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

There is transfer paper you can run through your printer (!) that can be used over and over - look around this site, it sells it for about $4/pkg. I have not tried it but I know I will.

where shall I get Linoleum block?? Shall I get these from any wood shop? please give me the answer.


Reply 5 years ago

I get them at craft store, Joann, Dick Blick, Art Mart. I think you can get on Amazon, too.


6 years ago

wow, doing print making in college now, just done lino printing.


9 years ago on Introduction

you shouldn't use expensive woodcarving or engraving tools on linoleum. the lino cuts easy enough but the material actually dulls blades faster. A high quality set of tools is meant to last for decades, and they will if used with wood, so don't throw money away by carving linoleum with it. the only things you need to carve lino are a basic speedball handle set, a x-acto (and a ton of replacement blades, as you should be changing them often), and maybe a drypoint needle. when the speedball blade gets too dull (should take a long while to get to that point), throw it out and buy a replacement. with these basic tools, and a steady hand (it takes practice), you can make any mark an expensive tool could.


9 years ago

Can you please tell me how to print my linoleum block on a Tshirt! I have tried everything I could think of but it never comes out in a solid print. Please help!!


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

usually just applying more pressure evenly will help, or using more ink. try to get the shirt spread out evenly with like a piece of cardboard, ink up the block, lay it down on the shirt, then [if it's unmounted lino] lay something flat and sturdy (I typically use a sheet of plywood on top of it. I find just standing on top of that, and making sure to press down in several different areas, usually results in a pretty even image. I've also found that using a spray bottle to mist the shirt till it's just slightly moist can sometimes help the ink bind to the shirt.


9 years ago

Omg I love your post! Thank you for sharing this.


9 years ago on Step 9

Wicked good! Loved it... I have some experience but you nailed everything perfectly. Thanks for taking the time and your graphics are the bomb!


10 years ago on Introduction

Nice stuff, always fun seeing others work and tips. I am also a paper on top printmaker, and I use my hand as the press after trying many other tools I find that the good old press down finger and slowly swirl outwards method is best for me.


11 years ago on Introduction

Thanks so much for this. The two most useful tips I took from this that I haven't seen elsewhere - keep the block stationary and place the paper on top. I was doing it the other way with much worse results. Also - using the back of a wooden spoon to press the paper down - genius. Works like a charm. Who needs a printing press.

Thanks again.

Hudson Hill
Hudson Hill

Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

Thank you for the kind words glad I could help. If you have an extra moment post a photo so I can see your final product. Good luck, If you really want to get away from the press and get tired of the wooden spoon run the print/block over with your car.




Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

Haha, I'll bear that in mind. Here's the print. First one since high school! The rest of my work is up here:


Jafafa Hots
Jafafa Hots

11 years ago on Introduction

A couple of ideas.
First, for correcting mistakes, try JB Weld. An easy mix epoxy, cheap at any hardware and auto supply store, and can be sanded. Could be used to fill in mistakes.

Second - for transferring images that don't have fine detail, print backwards on a laser printer, place face down on the lino and and use a blender marker from the art store on the back, will transfer the toner to the lino very quickly and easily.

Acetone will also work, may work even better for finer detail, but is messier, more of an outdoor job.

Lastly, for softening for carving, try a heat gun very very very carefully (they get HOT) or a hair dryer (not as hot).