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.
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The great thing about lino cutting is that you don’t need that much supplies to get started and see good results.
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 🙂
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. It seems to be close to the
I am also experimenting with alternative surfaces like MDF and shower pan liner and will write a post about my findings soon.
Clear linoleum is a bit harder to carve and it is more difficult to see your marks.
Transferring your drawing onto your block
I tried different techniques and what worked best for me was using Sally’s graphite transfer paper.
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.
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.
I 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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.