Linocut or Lino for short is a form of relief printing that is done in a similar manner to woodcut but instead uses a piece of linoleum as the surface in which the design is engraved. Invented in the 19th century as floor covering it became popular for artist and printmaking use in the 20th century. Its ease of cutting compared to wood made it a desirable surface to carve into, as there is no grain, cuts can be done in any direction with little to no resistance or unexpected results. Famous artists over the past decades such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse have used lino for its unique effects and tactile, printed finish.
Before printing it is advised (especially for a beginner) to mark out their desired print/design onto the surface of the lino with a washable marker or pencil. This way the cuts will be more precise and give the artist a better idea of how deep and many cuts are needed to gain their desired effect. As the depth of lino is typically around 3.2mm there is enough lino to create some depth of field effects with cuts. Deeper, wider cuts into the block will have less of a chance to pick up any ink residue when rolling, whereas layers shaved at the top may pick up flecks of ink pre-printing.
InkyDog Studio uses Linocutting for her print work.
Lino is done in the negative, so when carving the artist needs to remove any areas they do not want ink on. For example if you were doing a print of a window and wanted a good effect, the artist would cut away the lino in between the panes. So when inked and printed the frames will be the only things printing, giving it a good look and finish. Despite normally working in the negative you can be creative with it and utilise different ‘negatives’ where printing is occurring in unique ways.
A design is cut into the surface of the lino with a sharp chisel knife. The knife is specially designed to work with lino and typically comes in either a V-shape or a U-shape. The differing shapes also come in a variety of sizes allowing for fine detail cuts or broader, more area coverage cuts. When the desired cutting has been achieved the block is laid down on a flat surface and inked with a roller (known as a brayer). The goal is to get an even spread of ink over the full block to ensure a smooth and crisp finished print. The ink used is typically a water-based specifically made block printing ink that is designed to be used for printing. Using normal acrylic (or other) paints will not work as effectively and will most likely muddy the image and block up the roller. Acrylic paints can be used with Lino however, but must first be mixed with a specific printing medium prior.
Essdee Lino Cutting Sheets
The inked lino block is then left on the hard surface and a piece of material (most likely paper - handmade paper works perfectly with this technique) is pressed onto its surface for a few moments before being carefully removed. And just like that, you have a lino print. The lino block can be used back to back for prints, but will lose clarity and depth of colour as the ink is slowly removed with each print. When carved a block can be washed and reused unlimited times, making it a very sustainable method of working.
Lino is available on our website in a few varieties. The softcut is, as its name implies, a slightly softer and easier to cut version of standard lino, typically beige in colour the block performs in exactly the same way as standard lino but with an easier cutting surface. The mastercut on the other hand is slightly thicker than a normal lino block, coming in at 4mm. This extra thickness gives the block more strength than standard lino meaning it can take finer detailed work better and won’t crumble or break when used with a printing press.