Lino printing for beginners
by Suzanne Kemplay
Block printing is a centuries old art form first practiced in Japan, China, Korea, and elsewhere. It’s incredibly versatile and is used to create fine art prints, illustrations, greeting cards, gift wrapping, posters and numerous other graphic items on paper and on fabric. Lino prints tend to have a distinctive look but can vary widely, from simple and bold to delicate and detailed.
Lino printing is one of the most accessible printing processes that can easily be done at home without needing a lot of equipment. Here is some information on how to get started what tools you need, where you can buy them and how to go about creating lino prints confidently at home.
Basic tools you will need:
Essdee are the best known supplier of materials in the UK for Lino printing and I buy from https://www.jacksonsart.com but you could also try Cass Art or support your local Art Shop.
Lino: There is a variety of lino that you can buy but the product that I like to use that is the most versatile for beginners of all abilities is called Essdee Soft cut lino and as the name suggests it is softer than other lino or vinyl and therefore easier to cut.
Lino cutting tools: You can get a set of the basic tools from Essdee with either 3 blades or 5 blades. You can also buy the kit that comes with a Baren (used to press down when printing the lino print on to paper). Some people find that the back of a kitchen spoon works just as well.
Roller: These come is a variety of sizes, the 4” is probably the most versatile. The roller is used to ink up the lino when you are ready to print. You can buy ink trays but equally you can use a plastic chopping board or a piece of glass.
Printing Inks: For printing at home you are best to use water based inks as these are easier to clean up afterwards. One disadvantage of water based is that the ink dries faster but for short runs of print it shouldn’t be a problem. I use a mix of Jackson and Essdee inks and it really all depends on what colours you want to buy and how much money you’re prepared to spend.
- Draw out design in pencil
- Draw around your piece of soft cut lino so you know what size your design needs to be
- Use sharpie pen to black out areas you want to print
- White areas within the design are the areas that you will need cut out
- Trace completed drawn image. At this stage you need to decide if you want your image to be the same as your drawing, in which case you need to reverse the design when copying it onto your lino. If your design has writing it has to be the mirror image to print the right way round.
- Before starting on your design it really helps to have a practice on a smaller piece of lino just to get the feel of how the tools cut. Make sure you always cut away from you and don’t place your hand in front of where you are cutting.
- When you come to printing don’t put too much ink out. Spread some across the top of your ink tray and then take a bit down and start to roll it out, taking more as you need it. Work the ink up and down and from side to side. It should make a nice tacky sound.
- Roll the ink on to your finished cut lino design then place a piece of paper on top. Rub or press the baren or wooden spoon across the whole surface area of the print. If you have large areas that are solid colour it can take a few tries to get an even print. An important part of the process is embracing imperfection as they can add interest to your final print.
- Once you’ve done your first print you can then easily see from the print if there are bits that you haven’t cut enough away or areas where you don’t want to print that still has lines coming out. If you then wash and dry your piece of lino you can make any adjustments you need to and then go back to printing.
- For the flower image above I did not flip the image when tracing it on to the lino so it prints as a mirror image.
- Top tip: keep baby wipes handy for a quick clean up.
I hope this is enough to get you started in creating beautiful lino prints at home. Alternatively come along and join a class.
I am running two Christmas themed Lino printing workshops this month at The Arienas Collective in Edinburgh’s new town. Dates are 10th November and 26th November they are for a full day and you will have the chance to make Christmas cards, gift tags and wrapping paper. Please go to the https://www.thearienascollective.com/shop-1 if you would like to find out more