Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Linocut/Block Printing Tutorial: Part Two: From Carving to Printing

Continued from Part One of the Linocut/Block Printing Tutorial

Step Seven:  Attach the #2 blade to your carving tool (this should be a sharp V shape and the number should be etched on the underside of it).  Carve along all of the lines on your block to define the areas you want to carve.  TIP: Before you begin to carve, blow on the block with a hairdryer on high for a few minutes.  This will make it so much easier to carve.  Repeat as necessary throughout the carving process, to keep the linoleum soft.  Also, always keep your hand behind the blade (it can and will gouge out a chunk of flesh given the chance).  Use a firm but steady forward motion.  If it feels like the block is resisting you a lot, let up on the pressure and you might actually find it gets easier (too deep can mean too difficult).

Step Eight:  Attach a rounder U-blade to your linocut tool (the #3 is what I usually use). Carve out all the space between the lines that you intend to remove, remembering that what you remove will be the negative space of the picture, where the paper shows through.

Step Nine: When you have carve out everything to your satisfaction, brush the block clean with a cheap paintbrush or with your fingers.  If any stray bits of lino are left, they can get on your roller or stick to your block and mess up your print. 

Step Ten: Extrude a line of ink the width of your brayer onto a flat, washable surface (I use a palette, but you could use a plate, Pyrex pan, even just a piece of glass taken from an old frame) and roll out the ink with your brayer until it makes a sort of velcro sound.  That's a good indicator that you've got the right amount of ink on it. 

Step Eleven: Roll the ink carefully on to the raised surface of the block, being sure to cover it completely.

Step Twelve:  Now it's time to register your block (or line up the print on the paper).  There are two methods of doing this.  I usually just take my inked block, very carefully, and turn it upside-down on the paper, then slowly pull them to the edge of my work surface and gently flip it over.  The ink will usually tack the paper to the block well enough that you don't have to worry about any sort of sliding and, with this method, you can see exactly where the block and paper connect.

The other method of registration is to set your block where you want it (PRE-inking and set your paper atop it, then mark off where the paper lines up (here I did it with masking tape).  Then, after you've inked the block, you can line up the paper with the tape.

Step Thirteen: Now it's time to press the paper to the block.  If you used the second method of registration, press it gently with your hand first to tack the paper into the ink.  Then take your baren (what I have in the picture) or, lacking that, the back of a large kitchen spoon and press all over the back of the paper, using circular motions. When I use the brayer I press and twist. Move and twist again.  Lather, rinse, repeat until your sure you've covered the whole block throughly (if you're using a spoon, be extra thorough as it's easier to miss spots). 

Step Fourteen: Peel your paper off the block slowly and set it somewhere to dry, where it won't be disturbed for awhile. 

 This first print is your artist's proof.  (Congratulations, by the way). Use it to figure out if there are other spots you need to carve better. If it came out just as you wanted, then keep pulling prints using steps ten through fourteen until you have all the prints you want.  If it did not come out the way you wanted, rinse off the block, your brayer and your inking surface with water (presuming you used water-soluble ink), and pat dry.  When the block is fully dry, go back and fix the spots that need fixing, then try again.  

This is how my final proof looks:

I hope this tutorial was helpful.  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I will respond promptly.  Happy printing!


  1. Thanks for the tutorial! I've just started printing over the last few weeks, winging it really. It is good to have some guidance!

  2. Thank you for all this information, it will be really helpful! Your prints are lovely by the way :)