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Getting started with Linocut printing

getting started with linoprints
Drawing / Inspiration / Linocut printing / Monoprints

Getting started with Linocut printing

The world of printing has always been both fascinating and intimidating to me, with its specific vocabulary, techniques, heavy machinery and artist community.

I recently started venturing in the world of printing  with monoprinting, and wanted to explore other printing techniques like lino cutting.

You might also be interested in : Watercolor pencils monoprints

The great thing about lino cutting is that you don’t need that much supplies to get started and see good results.

lino print does not require many supplies to start with

What I really like about lino printing is that it is situated somewhere in between sculpture with the carving of the lino, drawing and painting. An awesome complete mixed media experience!

I would not say that it is easy to get a satisfying result fast as a beginner; The printing process is anything but straightforward as every ink seems to react differently with each kind of paper. But if you would like to give lino printing a try, here is how you can get started, and see if like me, you get addicted to it 🙂

Carving surfaces:

I tried traditional linoleum, Speedball Speedy-Cut, and Jack Richeson & Co Clear Carve Linoleum , Speedball Speedy carve blocks and Black Easy Cut Blocks

I did find the clear linoleum too hard and difficult to carve and the Speedy cut too fragile and soft.

The traditional linoleum  worked well enough but I found that it would crumble a bit too easily when trying to carve small details.

The Jack Richeson Easy-to-Cut Unmounted Linoleum worked the best for me as they were hard enough to keep the carving detailed but not as hard as the traditional lino.

The Jack Richeson Easy-to-Cut Unmounted Linoleum

Carving on The Jack Richeson Easy-to-Cut Unmounted Linoleum  worked the best for me.

I am also experimenting with alternative surfaces like MDF and shower pan liner and will write a post about my findings soon.

experimenting on other surfaces

Trying to carve on shower pan liner mounted on MDF

Clear linoleum is a bit harder to carve and it is more difficult to see your marks.

Clear linoleum is a bit harder to carve and it is more difficult to see your marks.

Speedball speedy carve  is soft but not as soft as Speedy cut. It is a good material for beginners and if you want to carve without using too much force. The softness of the material makes it a bit more challenging to carve details and fine lines.

Transferring your drawing onto your block

I tried different techniques and what worked best for me was using Sally’s graphite transfer paper. 

using graphite transfer paper on a lino block

Of course you could also draw directly onto your block, I found that sharpie markers were working well for drawing patterns, you can also use charcoal or any kind of ink or fluid acrylic.

Cutting tools:

You can start with a Speedball set like the Speedball Lino Set No. 1.  If you get more serious about lino prints, then you can invest into better carving tools sets, but a Speedball set is more than sufficient for beginners.

carving lino with speedball cutter lino carving with speedball toolsI found that it helped if you have a sharpening toll like a whetstone and sharpen the cutters once in a while.

You might also consider a protecting glove for your non dominant hand as it is quite easy in a moment of inattention to slip over the linoleum surface and hurt the hand holding the linoleum block. The rule is to never leave your non- dominant hand in front of the carving tool. That is not always easy to remember but after hurting myself once, I seem to remember better !

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Speedball Linoleum Cutters

Speedball Linoleum Cutters are made of the finest quality steel with long lasting cutting edges. They are made of quality steel for long lasting cutting edges.


Inks will react differently with different kinds of paper. So far I tried Speedball Water-Based Block Printing Inks , Gamblin Artist’s Colors Relief Ink and Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink . My favourite was the Caligo ink because it combines the good results of oil based inks but is easy to wash like the water based inks.

The Gamblin ink is giving me good results but the drying time is a bit longer, and there is a strong odor, a bit like when painting with oils that you might not like. Cleaning is also a bit more difficult than with water based inks, but if you don’t mind the extra cleaning effort, the texture of oil based inks is great and you get a beautiful, even dark black on your prints.

With the Gamblin oil, I am cleaning everything with mineral baby oil, then wipe as much paint as I can with paper towels and then rinse in soap.

trying different inks for printmaking

What I noticed is that the oil based inks (Gamblin and Caligo) are working better on paper surfaces that are very smooth like marker paper, yupo, smooth drawing papers, bristol paper… and the water based ink (Speedball) works better on papers that are more absorbant, with a bit more tooth like mixed media paper, Mulberry paper and all the Japanese papers.

mixing Speedball ink with extender

The Speedball ink is drying very fast, even in our wet Vancouver climate and I found that I would get way better results if I was mixing it with a bit of retarder.

I like to use the water based Speedball ink for quick tests and experimentation, but definitely found that I am having better results with the oil based inks for my final prints.


Japanese mulberry paper in roll for block printing mulberry paper is transluscent

Mulberry paper is a paper made in Thailand from the inner fiber of the mulberry. As I was getting frustrated with my printing efforts, this was the first paper to give me good results when printing by hand. The paper is thin and translucent but still quite strong. There is a whole range of thin Japanese paper that will also work very well when hand printing.

This kind of paper is a bit too thin to use with a press although some artists manage to make it work taking certain precautions.

Bristol paper is one of my favourite papers to use so far as it works well with a mini press but also when printing by hand. It is thick enough to make a print look good but not too thick as to render the printing difficult.

In another post I will talk more in detail about the printing process.

Here are some of the prints I made so far, feel free to ask questions or share pictures of your prints in the comments.


4.6/5 - (8 votes)

Comments (8)

  1. Harry

    Inking the plate with linocuts can be tricky.

    I also find it difficult to get a really black print.

    What is a mini press and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Harry,
      The press helps me doing exactly that, getting a print that is really black all over.

  2. Hi Sandrine, thanks for this very helpful post! Which side of the Bristol paper are you printing on? And can I use cutters bought for woodcuts on the lino material? Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Hello Bobbi, I am using the smooth side but the difference between both sides is not very noticeable on the canson xl brand.
      Yes, I have some tools that were meant for wood and they work well with the lino.

      1. Thank you so much, Sandrine! I will give it a try.

  3. Jeanette Weaver

    Sandrine what is the product you use to preserve Yupo watercolor work?

    1. I sometimes fix it with workable fixative wen I need to paint on top if that is what you mean. You can also varnish it with a spray varnish.

  4. Guest

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