Top Tips On Linocutting

Linocutting is a common print design technique that's similar to woodcut printing, but using a sheet of linoleum instead of wood. To create an image that can be printed, you cut away the parts of linoleum where you want to leave a white area, keeping the parts that'll be inked up. Once completed, the linoleum is then inked with a roller with good quality relief printing ink and printed onto a surface. 

A talented print designer and passionate lino-cutter is our brilliant vendor Jade They. Creating beautiful linocut prints of natural landscapes and wildlife, Jade They is an expert when it comes to the art of linocutting. We spoke to Jade and asked what some of her top tips are regarding this fabulous medium and a little insight into her own creative process. 

POP: Hey Jade! So how do you create these gorgeous pieces?

Jade: So, a little about my process, I start by collecting lots of reference material for the theme of my piece and draw from it trying to explore the feeling of the subject matter as well as the objects involved. I then take my drawings and collage them together. I separate each colour layer for a different block and draw it on to my lino. I then cut each layer and print with a 3 days- a week in between printing each layer to allow the ink to dry. For my work that will appear in digital formats i.e illustration work I make for magazines or online, I can experiment further with colour and potentially re-edit the piece on photoshop if it doesn’t work for the intended purpose, for instance if the magazine etc asks for changes. 


POP: Awesome! Could you give us some top tips on how to create such great through linocutting? 

Jade: Sure! Here the are: 

1.) Use carbon paper when transferring images onto lino

I use carbon paper when transferring my image to my Lino, normally in a red or blue so you can see it clearly if you’re using the reduction method. You then have the freedom of using images printed at any size and created in anyway, not just what you can draw on the block (just make sure the image is reversed before tracing). I use this Chinese brand but I hear tracedown is just as good. 


2.) Use Good Tools

Good tools are important to how much control you have over mark making and your own artistic ability. It is also important to experiment with how each tool creates a different mark on the block, once you have a good understanding how to cut the lino you can then start developing your own language with the process, just like developing a particular way of drawing. I use these Japanese woodcutting tools bought from intaglio printmakers here, they also do a good economy Japanese set to get you started.
If all the chisels and cutters look intimidating, have a look at this book which tells you everything from what they’re used for, as well as the different ways of registering and the traditional Japanese way of inking/printing. 

3.) Divide your colours

When inking your blocks try to see ways of dividing your block into colour sections to reduce the amount of work for yourself. If you look at my 'On a snowy evening' print, you can see I wanted to print the sky in dull gold and the land in light blue and I then have an overlaying darker blue and black. I cut the light blue and gold sections on the same block with a dividing area that has been cut away (you can also have a gradient or have this area covered with the next layers if you don’t want any white to be seen). I then was able to ink up both sections and print at the same time, thus reducing the amount of layers from four to three and minimising drying time between layers. 


4.) Registering

There are many ways of registering in relief block printing, and many different types of presses/ways of printing too. One way of registering a block might work well with one printing press but might not work as well with a different press. The best ways I have found of printing multiple layer prints however, is with either Burton pins detailed on the handprinted website, or the ways detailed in this blog post by Introduction to printmaking

5.) Good Paper

When selling or framing work, good paper makes a big difference to the quality of the piece. Generally linocut turns out better on a smooth, slightly off white (depending on the colours your using) such as the Simili Japon 225gsm or Somerset Satin 300gsm. 
John Purcell is great place to buy quality paper of all weights, colours and textures at very good prices.

Stretched for money and are dying to make a linocut print? Check out Love Your Plane's handy mini linocutting starter kit! Ideal for anyone who wants to have a go at carving and printing their own linocuts and to top it off it includes risograph printed instructions with a fold out poster! The contents of the kit include:

Tools - 5 linocutters and handle. Ink - 100mL black water-based. Cleans up easily with water and soap.

Roller - 65cm, easy grip handle.

Lino - 2 A6 easy to cut pieces.

Happy Printing!

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