Why I Do Linocuts

“Brahma Bull,” 12″ x 12″ Linocut print.
From my, “Cages and Fences,” series.

Not all Linouts are high contrast black and white but that is my preference I find that the intense focus of black-and-white changes the viewer’s perception of the image. I also find it challenging and interesting to work in solid areas of black-and-white. Then there is the carving experience it’s hard to explain what it’s like to carve away what you don’t want rather than to draw what you do want. But in the end it’s the drama of the image produced that draws me back time and time again to do Linocuts. I prefer unmounted Battleship linoleum to carve. also because I spoon print most of my linocuts rather than using a press printing is laborious and I have adopted the practice of printing only part of the intended edition of prints and storing the plate. So unmounted linoleum takes up less space when being stored. This haas led to plates sometimes being destroyed before the whole edition is printed. However it has also saved the printing time and costs of prints that did not sell well. I admit that occassionally happens. For the paper I used to use Tableau or Hosho. Tableau is easier to use in large sheets and rolls it takes a nice impression just be sure and use a bright white backing board behind the print as the paper is slightly transparent. Hosho comes in a snow white sheet and is thicker. Hosho is very absorbent which I find delightful when printing. For ink I genrally prefer the traditional oil based block printing inks. I have experimented with the modern inks on occasion and for student use I prefer the Speedball inks. When carving the use of a bench hook is useful and keeping your tools very sharp will reduce the amount of pressure needed to cut the linoleum. Warming the linoleum also reduces the amount of pressure to cut the linoleum. Interestingly if you are weak you may prefer woodcut to linoleum. Yes the wood is harder but when doing woodcuts you will generally be using a mallet to drive the carving tools. Sharpness is still a key to controlling the cuts and reducing the effort. It also in both cases leaves cleaner cuts which tend to print well. Always cut away from yourself so that if the blade were to slip it will not cut you.

Wood block printing is the precursor of linocut printing. It was one of the first methods used for printing cloth. Your linocut can be printed on cloth if you use a textile ink. You may remember seeing medieval designs where a block design is repeated corner to corner like a checkerboard. These were often woodcuts. Linoleum simply eliminates the grain which can cause designs to split as they are cut.

I plan to start adding video blogs showing how to do different art techniques. Please let me know if there is a particular printmaking, drawing or painting technique you would like to see a video on.


Materials you will need:

Linoleum mounted or unmounted

lino cut carving tools

x-acto knife (optional)

Ink (I prefer oil based but beginners might do better with water soluble)

A brayer (The rubber roller used to roll ink on the block)

A bench hook (optional – this helps hold the block in place while carving)

A large spoon (or access to a press)

Block printing paper

Talcum powder (optional – This is used to clean up stray ink )



Click here to buy linoleum          click here to buy carving tools         Here is a starter kit with everything but paper

Strathmore light weight block paper 

Oil based block printing ink

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