When it comes to choosing a printmaking method, there are rather a lot of options available. For me, the appeal of lino printing is in its simplicity and the fact that it results in unique and satisfying prints every time. Every. Time.
Lino printing is a relief printing technique, which means that the image is carved into a block of linoleum (“lino”) and then inked and transferred onto paper. Because each carving is hand-made, no two prints will ever be exactly the same – making each one truly unique. There are numerous surfaces which are used as relief print surfaces nowadays: in my workshops, I introduce at least 4 surface variations for the students. This allows them to find a good surface to work with for the session.
The beauty of lino carving and printing lies in its simplicity. Unlike other printmaking techniques, there is no need for complicated equipment or chemicals. All you need is a piece of lino, some good-ergonomics and sharp carving tools, and some ink.
OK so, first things first: transferring your design onto the lino block. This can be done freehand or by using a paper template. Once your design is transferred, it’s time to start carving. I like to leave some wiggle room on the transference of the design onto block – this allows me to allow more organic growth on the carving whilst working on the block itself. I feel freer this way.
Next: The carving process. This is where you really get to be creative. You can use any type of carving tool that you like – there is a plethora of selections of excellent lino carving tools out there. Though I find that swiss-made Pfeil carving tools work best. Most commonly, people start by carving out the largest areas of their design first, then move on to the smaller details. For me, I want to address the details first and foremost: i.e. the areas to which the eyes are drawn to. This lets me tackle the complexities head-on, and so the rest of the block should be a walk-in-the park.
Once you’re happy with your carving, it’s time to ink up your block. You can use any type of ink for this, but I prefer using water-miscible oil-based inks for the printing. This allows the use of standard dishwashing liquid soap to wash clean afterwards, as opposed to the more harmful-to-the-environment solvents.
How does one ink up a block, I hear you ask. Roll some ink onto it using a brayer. (Note: lately, a brayer is an interchangeable term for a roller. The pedants will say that all brayers has a handle and a cylindrical roller and that the brayer term is an umbrella term within which the roller is subsumed. This is true, so yay pedants. A roller then, is a hand-sized brayer.). Next, place your paper onto the inked block and rub over the top with a baren or spoon. The pressure you apply will determine how much ink is transferred onto the paper – so experiment to see what works best for you. In later sections, we may well cover about how much ink you roll onto the block to allow good coverage, as opposed to underwhelming or overwhelming the block.
Once you’re happy with the inkiness of the block and transferance of ink onto paper, gently peel back the paper to reveal your print. Et voíla! You’ve successfully created your own unique lino print!
If you’re looking for a printmaking technique that is simple, yet results in beautiful and unique prints, then lino printing is a very good method for you. Give it a try today and see for yourself just how satisfying it can be.