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  • Symon Leech

What on earth is a Linocut

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

One of the most common questions we get when we are out at comic cons and festivals is "What is a lino print?" If you know, that's great but most people in my experience don't know what it is or have forgotten that they did it as a kid. They often try to style it out but hopefully, this will answer a few questions for them

Lino cutting is based on an art form that has been around for centuries, and it’s a great way to make unique prints. It’s very similar to stone-based litho printing or woodblock printing, it just uses a more modern and forgiving material to print with, lino.

What is Lino Cutting?

Lino cutting is a printmaking technique where designs are cut into soft sheets, called linoleum blocks. Usually, the designs are carved onto the linoleum blocks by hand using gouges. Afterward, they are inked with a roller or brush and then pressed onto paper or fabric to create a print. Linoleum blocks come in various sizes so you can create anything from small postcard-sized prints to larger posters.

The process of lino printing is fairly simple but requires patience and precision. First off, you need to draw your design on the sheet of linoleum using a pencil or marker. Then, you will use special tools such as chisels or gouges to carve out the design into the block. I use gouges made by Pfiel which, although expensive are worth every penny. The quality of the tool is important because it means that you can carve fine detail safely since the tool doesn't slip nearly as often as a blunt tool might.

Once you have finished carving, use a brayer (roller) to ink up your block with special inks that won't dry too quickly. I use water-based inks by Essdee for printing onto books as the coverage isn't always as smooth as oil-based inks so it produces a grainy image which I feel produces a vintage look that compliments the upcycled pages. You can also use oil-based inks which take a much longer time to dry so it works well for complex multi-coloured pieces.

The image is then pressed onto paper using either a baren or a roller press. A Baren is a smooth flat surface used to press the paper to inked linocut. I use a Speedball baren but the same thing can be achieved with the back of a spoon, though it takes much more time. The roller press I use is actually an "X-Cut" embosser, though with a couple of modifications, it works wonderfully and it's much cheaper than larger more professional printing beds.

Lino cutting may seem relatively straightforward at first glance; however, there can be quite a bit of difficulty involved depending on how intricate your design is. For example, if you're planning on making a detailed image like an animal or portrait you'll need to make sure each line is precise and cleanly cut so that every detail comes out clearly when printed! It's also important to note that lino cutting requires practice—the more you do it, the better you'll become at creating beautiful prints in no time!

Lino cutting and printing as an art form is a cruel mistress! It is very easy to make mistakes which will either ruin the piece or injure you, if you are particularly unlucky it will do both! It’s a straightforward process with many creative possibilities but it does take patience and precision to get perfect results!

Watch a video of the process on YouTube

Some of my more popular linocuts...

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