Linocut (a.k.a. Lino Print) is a printmaking technique that originated in the mid-1800s. It is a form of relief printing similar to woodcut, wood engraving, and rubber stamp printing.

In the process of creating a linocut, a design is carved into a sheet of linoleum. The carved linoleum block is then inked with a roller, and paper is pressed onto the block to transfer the ink and create a print.

I first discovered linocut while researching Japanese watercolor paintings on Pinterest. The app provided results for Japanese woodcut designs, and from then on, I became fascinated. One of my favorites was “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” by Hokusai.

Although I didn’t start immediately, as a self-taught artist, linocut intimidated me. It felt like I wasn’t ready. I went through a lot of research and tutorials before deciding to give it a try.

Who is this blog for?

I am writing this blog to share my experiences. If, for some reason, you are like me and you are reading this because you want to be prepared, then I am here to assist you in the best way I know how.

Before we begin, I must warn you that I myself am a beginner. The insights I’m sharing are the things I’ve learned as I study and enhance my knowledge and experience in printmaking. You’ve been warned 😉

Let’s begin…

Essential Materials that you may need

It is easy to get started with Linocut. You can buy a linocut basic kit on Amazon if you feel overwhelmed about which materials to choose.

But essentially, you would need the following:

Linoleum

is a floor covering made from materials such as solidified linseed oil (linoxyn), pine resin, ground cork dust, sawdust, and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, most commonly on a burlap or canvas backing. The surface is smooth and allows for intricate carving. Linoleum is a popular choice for its ease of carving and versatility.

However, as a beginner, you may choose to use Softcut or Speedy Carve, this is a soft and pliable carving material that is easier to carve than traditional linoleum. It is often preferred by beginners and those who seek a more forgiving material.

I recommend trying and choosing the material that makes you feel comfortable. Personally, I prefer traditional artist lino as it provides versatility and flexibility in my carving. It offers a satisfying snap at the end of my carve, making it easy to remove.

Carving tools

also known as linocut tools or gouges, are essential instruments used in relief printmaking to carve designs into various carving blocks. These tools come in different shapes and sizes, each serving a specific purpose in the carving process.

Some well-known brands include Pfeil tools and Japanese Power Grip tools. Alternatively, you may choose to purchase lino cutters from Esdee/Speedball.

Personally, I opted to invest in Pfeil tools because of their longer neck. This feature helps me control the cutter and reduces the likelihood of cutting accidents.

Additionally, I use a dry-point etching tool when I want to carve dots or a round leather hole punch tool for specific detailing. These tools offer precision for creating intricate designs in my linocuts.
Storage Tip: To protect your lino cutters, push corks onto the cutting tips and store them securely in a designated box. Covering the box with leather provides an extra layer of care for your tools.

Rollers or Brayers

is a cylindrical device equipped with a handle, meticulously designed for the purpose of spreading ink seamlessly across the surface of a printing block.

There are different types of rollers that you can use:

Storage Tip: I recommend storing brayers in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, and preferably without the surface touching anything. Personally, I use a pegboard to hang my brayers, and I also employ magnetic paint clips to secure them on a metal rack.

Inks

The choice of ink plays a pivotal role in your printmaking journey, as it influences the texture and final appearance of your artwork.

There are different types of inks that you can choose from:

  • Water-based Inks: These inks are versatile and easy to clean up with water. Especially favored by beginners, water-based inks come in a diverse array of colors.
  • Oil-Based Inks: Containing pigments suspended in an oil medium, typically linseed oil, oil-based inks are renowned for their intensity and durability.
As a beginner, I advise that you start your printmaking journey with water-based inks. The viscosity of ink can vary between brands, and as a personal recommendation, I have found the Gerstaecker brand to have a rather thick consistency. The Schmincke brand, on the other hand, is a bit thin. I tend to combine these two brands to create a good consistency, but that's just me.

Paper

plays a pivotal role in your printmaking. Selecting the right paper demands careful consideration, as it also influences the final outcome of the artwork. While you may choose different surfaces (e.g. textile, clay, even your skin), paper stands out as the most renowned medium.

Through numerous tests, I’ve found the papers, in the photo above, to be particularly effective for my work. Ranging from 45gsm linoblock paper to 300gsm hot press watercolor paper, these sheets showcase diverse results.

Glass/Plexiglass as an Ink Slab

serves as an ideal work surface for rolling out ink, providing a consistent and non-absorbent space for distributing the ink evenly with a roller or brayer.

I personally chose plexiglass because it is easy to acquire; however, using glass is preferable. Glass offers a smooth surface that allows the ink to be spread evenly without interference. Additionally, it provides easy cleanup.

Additional Items that you may also need

Hand-printing

is a versatile and tactile method of creating prints without the use of a press. To do this, you may use the following tools:

  • Japanese Baren – is a traditional tool used in printmaking, particularly in woodblock printing and other relief printing techniques
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Kitchen Roller

A Printing Press

A traditional press used in printmaking

A Cold Laminator

Typically used for photo lamination but you can also use this for lino printing.

As a beginner, you will be starting off with hand-printing. Buying a printing press or a cold laminator can be quite an investment

You may also use the following to transfer your design to the lino.

You may also use the following for cleaning up

I got the materials! What do I do now?

I love the enthusiasm! But we would need to slow down… I believe this is a lot of information to take in. For now, I’m sharing this demo video so you can get an idea of what we are going to do next.

In my next blog, I will provide a thorough explanation of my process. Similar to the video, it will be divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: Creating your design
  • Part 2: Carving Techniques
  • Part 3: Printing your artwork

I hope you’ll look forward to my next blog and consider subscribing to my website to receive email notifications.

Additional Resources:

If you want to read ahead, I recommend the following resources:

Linocut and Reduction Printmaking by Laura Boswell

Linocut for artist and designer by Nick Morley


6 responses to “A Linocut Beginner’s Guide: Getting Started”

  1. A very comprehensive guide
    for beginners and those
    getting back to lino printing
    after a break!

    • Thank you for your kind words! I appreciate that you visited my website and read my blog.

    • Thank you for visiting my website and taking the time to read my blog. I will see you again soon!

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