Have you ever made linocut art before? Linocut is short for lino printmaking which is short for linoleum printmaking. It’s a traditional form of printmaking that’s gotten loads easier and safer thanks to new materials. This old fashioned process delivers super fun and modern results!
What is lino printmaking?
Lino printmaking is literally using a sharp tool specially designed for printmaking to carve out pieces of linoleum or “lino.” The remaining raised areas are rolled with ink and create a super textured, graphic print. Carving linoleum used to mean straining to carve your design out of tough grey linoleum blocks. Sharp tools and max pressure were needed making it a less than safe endeavor.
New surfaces make this age old art so much more manageable and just as fun. This simple project is a great place to start for those that don’t have much experience with linocut printmaking. Start easy, learn the process, and build your skills!
In order to do linocut printmaking it is necessary to have a few specific supplies that go beyond the typical art materials that are always available to my kiddos.
This Speedball block printing starter kit contains everything you need to get started. A linocut carving tool with three blades, printing brayer, black printing ink, and a smallish easy carve block and you’re set for this printmaking project and beyond. When I snagged this set it was on sale for about the price of the brayer alone so it’s worth keeping an eye on it.
I also ordered an extra piece of the easy carve block. This stuff is thick enough that you can use both sides so it goes a long way.
You will also need paper. I usually sing the praises of heavy, quality paper for kids art work. But for printmaking, cheap paper is fine! Smooth thin paper will take these prints well!
Getting started with lino printmaking…
Remember how I said this was for “beginners?” I want you to choose a “beginner” subject matter. By that I mean we’re going to start small & simple. (Don’t worry your results will still be “Wow!”)
Start with a smallish piece of your easy carve rubber, maybe 3 x 4. Draw a few directional lines on it. I was thinking of ocean waves when I drew mine. Try to include both straight and curved lines so that you have an opportunity to practice carving both. The idea is to choose a subject matter that has some “wiggle” room in it; that will still look awesome even as you find your lino carving groove.
The actual linocut carving..
Before this amazing easy carve surface came out the craving portion of linocut printmaking was risky. It required so much pressure from the artist it was easy to slip and land your carving tool in the meat of your hand. This easy carve stuff is a whole new animal. It’s soft and rubbery and carves out of the printing plate like buttah’. Easy.
Practice carving by following your directional lines. Try taking out all the carving material in places. Leave some in places for added texture. Use all three different sizes of carving tips that come with your carving tool. See what you like best by trying it all!
You’re using a small piece of carving materials and only a little ink for this project. Try a little of everything so you know what works for you! You can refine your choices in future projects!
Print your linocut art…
Ready to print? Let’s do it. Squeeze a small dollop of printing ink out on a plastic plate. Use your brayer (the little roller) to spread the ink. Go back and forth one direction and then switch and go back and forth the opposite direction. When the ink is ready you will hear it start to sound tacky.
Roll ink onto your printing plate in the same way you loaded the brayer; back and forth one way, then back and forth the opposite direction.
Leave your printing plate flat on your table surface. Place your paper upside down on the inked surface and take the back of a spoon or your thumb and smooth the paper all over. Apply just a little pressure here. You’re just trying to make sure that the ink and the paper meet!
Starting at one side, peel the print off the block and lay aside to dry. Wowsers; linocut printing provides such a bold and graphic result!
Lino printmaking options…
The printing kit I ordered came with only black, which is a great place to start. You don’t need fancy options yet. Using just black ink you can create plenty of different looks by changing up the paper on which you print. Obviously black ink looks awesome on any vibrant color of paper.
Don’t rule out printing on other artwork. The patterned print above was done on a tissue paper bleed. (See this post for directions!) Printing with bold black on top of patterned paper adds an extra dimension.
This method can produce some stunning results and use up some of that pile of old art work that you’re not quite sure what to do with!
If you love this lino printmaking project I hope you’ll share it!
Every share helps me to bring you more fun projects and free printable resources!