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Testing alternative carving materials for lino printing

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Testing alternative carving materials for lino printing

I think I am officially addicted to lino printing ! As surfaces to carve can become quite costly and as I am thinking of working on bigger scale prints., I have been looking for alternative materials to use for carving and printing.

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I did a bit of research and found artists that were successfully carving on marmoleum (a flooring linoleum), plywood, MDF and pan shower lining.

MDF can be used a s a surface for wood carving

I did not try Marmoleum and plywood yet but tried MDF.


This artist Søren Bjælde makes wonderful prints from plywood with many plates and colors, you can watch videos on his YouTube channel:


MDF is a very pleasant surface to carve but I wasn’t happy with the precision of lines I could get, even after brushing a few layers of shellac. I also tried coating the MDF with GAC 100 but found that it was becoming a bit too hard and slippery to carve.

lines are not precise enough when printing with MDF

Lines were not precise enough for what I want to do when printing with MDF

Pan Shower liner

I also tried pan shower liner mounted on board, and so far this is my favourite alternative to linoleum or vinyl plates. Pan shower liner is made of PVC, so a material quite similar to the vinyl plates you can buy in art supplies store.

pan shower liner works well as a carving surface for relief printing.

You can find shower pan liner at home hardware stores.

you can easily cut shower pan liner with a pair of scissors

Pan shower liner is easy to cut with scissors.

The liner is only 4 mm thick so not thick enough to use by itself, so you have to mount it on board. I mounted it the same way I am mounting watercolor paper on board.

You might also be interested in : Mounting watercolor paper on board

This is the pan shower liner once mounted on board. Once mounted on a hard surface like MDF, the pan shower liner is very easy to cut and makes very clean lines.

pan shower liner is very easy to carve

Pan shower liner is very easy to carve. My only disappointment, with pan shower liner is that the plastic smell is pretty strong, to the point of being too much if you leave the whole liner out in your studio. It is manageable if you work on a small surface.

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.

While carving you will probably expose some of the MDF underneath, I recommend you apply a layer of GAC 100 before printing to seal the wood.

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.

Golden GAC Acrylic Polymer Mediums

Golden GAC Acrylic Polymer Mediums

Golden’s GAC Mediums are the raw materials from which other acrylic mediums are created. Use them to modify the working characteristics and appearance of Golden Acrylics and other acrylic paints. – GAC 100: Universal Acrylic Polymer

carving a big plate for linoprinting with pan shower liner

Here is a video of me hand printing a large 24 x 24 inches tree cookie from a carving that was done on pan shower liner mounted on MDF.

I used Arches watercolor paper and Caligo safe wash ink for this print.

drying the prints in the studio

tree cookie print by North Vancouver print maker sandrine pelissier

Have you tried alternative materials to linoleum or vinyl ? Do you want to share your results? (You can post pictures in the comments)

3.9/5 - (14 votes)

Comments (21)

  1. sandyklein

    I’ve read about Japanese vinyl being a good product with nice results. Has anyone used it? I can’t seem to find it to buy.

    1. Helen

      Hi Sandy, I’ve bought some but not tried it yet. I got it from Jackson’s Art Supplies. Cheaper than other materials, too, so if it works out to be a good material it’ll be fantastic value for money.

  2. Tom Mautino

    I had some Trex (trademark) deck material left over after a project. It is a composite made of recycled wood/sawdust/ plastics. I sanded it to insure it was flat enough for printing. It is thick enough (1.25″) that a person could carve both sides. The only drawback that I encountered was that it’s width (5.5″). I was considering joining two sections to give a larger space but I also have access to a shop that would allow me to do that unlike others. Very enjoyable to carve on. It may not yield as sophisticated an edge as a fine artist might want but the price (for me) was right.

    1. Thanks for sharing Tom! I have to look at deck material next time I am in the hardware store 🙂

  3. Scott Koue

    A little correction, shower liners are 40 mil. (as in thousands of an inch) thick not 40mm (which is over an inch thick.

    1. Bessy

      40mm is .4 cm definitely not over an inch thick

      1. drew

        40mm is 4cm which definitely is over an inch thick.

  4. yetunde

    I carve vinyl/pvc ceiling tiles I get from Menards, our regional Hooke improvement store chain (not sure where you are). I get a 2ft by 4ft tile for about $12. It’s smooth and carved like butter and transfers ink beautifully. You might try that.

    1. Thanks Yetunde! I am in Canada but will look for ceiling tiles at Home Depot.

    2. Hi! Thank you for this idea. Could you pls tell me which model do you buy from them? Thank you!

  5. Sandra
    she is checking other materials for relief printing….
    great site – if you dont already know of it.

  6. charlee silvester

    Hey Sandrine, and fellow printmakers.
    I print with flooring Linoleum (Marmoleum is only one type of flooring Linoleum that has more than one color mixed to look like marble). I live in Germany and recommend DLW flooring although every country has multiple companies producing flooring Linoleum. I reached out out to local builders that install Linoleum and they gave me their off-cuts.
    I would recommend this to every printmaker out there! It means you are Upcycling, you get materials for free (or cheap) and it means you sometimes get pieces larger than A3.
    If you are thinking of using flooring Linoleum, make sure it is unsealed, this is often the sport variety used for gyms or school sport halls. Sealed Linoleum will be harder to print with (the ink doesn’t spread evenly)
    If you want to see some examples check out my Instagram @silvesterart
    Happy printing 🙂

    1. Thanks Charlee, I looked for marmoleum here in Canada but could not find it. Reaching out to local builders is a great idea, I will try that

  7. HeidiTurner

    Good morning! New Brunswick carver here – the pan liner is something I hadn’t heard of before – thank you. Wondering what adhesive you use to adhere it to the mdf? I love your tree cookie print!

    1. Hi Heidi from New Brunswick 🙂
      I tried 2 methods to make the pan adhere to the MDF:
      – The first one was heavy bodied gel medium and it worked well
      – The second one was contact cement glue and that was a struggle because it took longer to dry, it was stinky and the pan would lift from the support in places.
      Feel free to post pictures of your prints here if you try the pan liner method 🙂

      1. HeidiTurner

        Thanks, just checked, shower pan liner is crazy expensive – and it seems you can’t get it by the foot unless you buy it in bulk. Oh well. I’m desperate to find something that holds an edge and isn’t going to break the bank. I’m sensitive to linoleum so an alternative would be helpful. I have some old vinyl tiles that are perfect, but they don’t seem to be sold any longer and I have searched the internet for other options. Gomuban is outrageous for shipping. I can’t figure out why someone hasn’t cracked this code yet. Thanks for your help.

        1. Hello Heidi, Are you in the states ? You can get 5 x 6 feet of pan liner for less than $40 and you can make a lot of prints with that surface:

          1. HeidiTurner

            Strange, Amazon has it for $180… I’ll check HD. I am right on the border of Maine, so I have a mailbox on the US side. I did order some fancy marmoleum samples from your corner of the world, they arrived in 1 day!! and they are amazing! It doesn’t have the same resin that the linoleum has, so it’s perfect for me. I’m tickled. Now I just need to find a distributor on this side of the country 🙂

          2. lensman888

            Did you ever find a supplier of Marmoleum in Canada?

          3. Sandrine Pelissier

            I could not find it, let me know if you do 🙂

          4. David Ready

            I bought the pan liner (5’X6′) three years ago at Lowes Hardware for $35.00, Oatey X-15 vinyl bonding solvent makes for a good seal to plywood. Apply to both surfaces, thinly. Gomuban is expensive, but it is the best alternative to linoleum that I’ve found, and you don’t need to bond it to a substrate.

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