Linocut and Blockprinting tutorial

Welcome to the lino cut tutorial!  If you can afford it, and there’s one nearby, take a class.  A good teacher can show you all sorts of tricks and techniques.  This tutorial is just an introduction into blockprinting and using linoleum for stamping.  Let’s dive in.

1. Assemble the materials you'll be using

The first thing you’ll need is to collect the materials you’ll be using.  For blockprinting, there are some materials that you need to make your prints look good.  Here’s the short list:

  1. Blockprinting ink.  The best is by Speedball, kind of the leader in printing inks.  Whether you are going to use Styrofoam or linoleum to cut your stamps, you will need this ink.  Speedball printing ins come in either water-soluable, or oil-based formulas.  I use the water soluble ink. The clean up is easy, and done with soap and water.  Since I don’t have a studio, that is much easier.  If you use oil-based ink, you will need to have turpenoid or turpentine on hand for clean-up.  Also, as with any oil-based products and their cleaners, you should work in a well-ventilated space.  This tutorial is for water based printing, so if you are interested in oil-based inks, see this page here.
  2. Brayer.  A brayer is a type of roller.  There are 2 types for printing, there is the hard rubber brayer (which I use and is pictured above) and a soft foam brayer.
  3. Plexiglass. A small piece of plexiglass is very useful for printing.  Its a smooth and washable surface to spread your ink.  You can find these is most art stores with the blockprinting materials.
  4. Linoleum or Stryofoam.  Linoleum for blockprinting comes in a number of sizes and shapes, as well as thicknesses.  I use easy-to-cut lino sheets, that can be used on both sides.  Its a little more expensive than regular lino.  Regular linoleum is smooth on one side and rough on the back.  The least expensive material is Stryofoam; I recycle meat trays for this purpose.  You want a smooth piece of styrofoam for the print.  To cut the styrofoam, you can use a pen.  To cut the linoleum, you will need a chisel.
  5. Chisel/ cutting tool.  There are special tools you can buy (made by Speedball) to help with the cutting of your linoleum.  These are sold as a handle, and a set of blades. Each blade has a different purpose.  Speedball sells sets of cutters to help you start.  Good blades to start with are small V chisel; and a knife blade for outlining your design.  A small V chisel, will make nice thin lines.
  6. Palette knife, for spreading the ink.

  Step 1: Cutting your block

Using your cutting tool and various blades, you will create your stamp.  I usually draw my design in pencil first before I start cutting.  Once you cut, there’s no erasing!  Using a craft knife, or knife blade in my cutting tools, I go over the pencil lines and score the design into the linoleum.  In the picture, I’m using the easy-to-cut linoleum.  What ever you carve, your stamp will be the mirror image, so remember that if you are including words in your carving.  Also, any thing you carve will be white in your picture, things left uncarved are art of the stamp.  This is the longest part  of the process, so have fun.  WARNING!  Go slow when cutting; I’ve cut my fingers really badly while learning and trying to rush.

Step 2: Inking your block.

Using your palette knife, spread some of the blockprinting ink onto your Plexiglas.  Keep it to one side, as  your brayer will roll the ink out for coverage. 

Using you brayer, roll the ink out (roll the brayer over the pool of ink several times.) This will warm up the ink, and spread it for printing.   You will need to roll the ink our for a minute or two.  It is ready when it “sings!”  The ink will make a crackling noise when its spread and tacky enough to use.  The ink will not be smooth on the Plexiglas.  It will ripple like in the photo.

Step 3: Ink your stamp

Roll your brayer across the Plexiglas, and then roll it across you linoleum/ Styrofoam stamp.Make sure your stamp is completely covered.

Step 4: Stamp your image.

Place the stamp ink down on your paper.  Newsprint is the best for stamps.   When the stamp is down, rub the back of the paper.  Don’t rub the stamp, you could move the cut and the image would end up blurry.  (Ask me how I know!) After rubbing the paper for about a minute, slowly peel away the paper from the carving.  If the image hasn’t transferred enough, you can lay it back down and rub the paper for a little longer.  When you are satisfied with the transfer, peel away the paper completely.

Voila!  Your own linocut stamp! Here are some tips I learned the hard way:

  • If you are using water-soluble ink, you will need to spray a fixative to work the print some more. The ink will wash away if it come into contact without it!
  • Don’t use paint instead of ink.  Its doesn’t work well.  Paint is too thin for the linoleum print.

I hope that you found this tutorial helpful.  For some more information on this kind of printing, here are some sites I found useful:


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