Linocut is a relief form of printmaking, first introduced in the late nineteenth century. The image is carved into a sheet of linoleum, removing the unwanted elements to leave a relief image ready for printing. Ink is applied, then paper is pressed on by hand or in a press to transfer the image.
Today, linocut is a popular printmaking method for artists of all skill levels.
Lacking any grain, linoleum is much easier to engrave than wood. Thanks to the lino’s features, artists can achieve smooth, curved and flowing lines on the material. These are carvings that would be extremely difficult to achieve on a natural material.
Lino can also be heated to decrease resistance when carving. However, linoleum is more fragile and pressure sensitive than natural surfaces. This means it can degrade faster than wood or metal plates.
Linoleum plates, linocut tools, water-based inks and printing papers: discover the process and the tools needed for lino block printing.
Linoleum is a man-made material, originally used as a floor covering. Without a directional grain, it's the perfect surface for many forms of mark making. Once the lino sheet has been carved and the relief image perfected, the surface is inked with a brayer. This is followed by the print process.
Manual or hand press printing can be used to reproduce the image. The manual process involves pressing a piece of paper onto the inked surface. The paper is then rubbed with a wooden spoon, or specifically made tools called barens and pads. This ensures the full imprint is transferred from the relief to the paper. The paper is then peeled away to reveal the print.
The hand press method involves a simple machine that sandwiches the plate and paper together. When the press is tightened, it exerts pressure transferring the image onto the paper. The paper is removed to reveal the image.
The linocut artist can choose from lino sheets in many different thicknesses, densities and colours. Many come with a textile backing or are mounted onto solid blocks of wood or MDF.
We offer a range of lino plates in classic grey with a flexible hessian backing. We also offer SoftCut, a newer plate material formulated for easy cutting. This substrate holds extra-fine detail without crumbling. It is designed to better withstand the pressure of the printing press. It has an off-white surface which is perfect for pencil drawing. These plates are flexible and double-sided, featuring a smooth texture on one side, and a coarser texture on the other.
Gouges are hand-held chisels with concave blades used in engraving to carve away your image on lino. They allow the engraver to create defined shapes and carve precise angles needed to create an image. We offer a range of high-quality gouges with round, U-shaped or V-shaped cutting blades. We also have a fine grade gouge sharpening stone.
Linocut artists use metal knives in a range of shapes and dimensions to create relief and cut away excess lino. To achieve the most accurate results, these knives must be kept sharp. We offer a wide range of top-quality knives and a choice of sharpening stones.
Engraving requires the use of sharp tools. To protect the engraver from slips and cuts, there are a number of useful safety guards and holders that are used to fix your surface in place. Explore our durable rubber options.
Ink is applied to the lino with a hand-held brayer, also known as a roller. Roller heads are made from hard materials that maintain good contact with the relief without overloading it. We offer a range of sizes and styles, with plastic or wooden handles.
To achieve the perfect manual prints, it’s vital that you don’t dent or mark your paper when pressing it against your inked relief.
Pads & Barens are smooth, disc shaped objects, often with grips. They are designed to apply even pressure onto the back of your paper when you are transferring a print. We have a range of high quality barens and pads.
In addition to manual printing techniques, linocut can be reproduced with a hand press.
Essentially, hand presses are two hard surfaces that hold the inked engraved plate and the paper and press them together.
We offer an A4 hand press made from wood and metal, which can be used in all relief printing techniques. Our hand press is built to hold different thicknesses of printing plates. The metal handle is a lever arm that allows you to exert different degrees of pressure onto the plate.
The most appropriate ink for relief printing is a highly pigmented ink with medium to strong adhesion. Charbonnel manufactures a range of finely ground inks including our water washable ink, our emulsified, water soluble and non-harmful ink which allows cleaning with soapy water. We also offer the Lefranc Bourgeois range of water-based linocut inks.
Our range of water washable printing inks consists of 23 colors including 6 blacks. Formulated to a professional standard, it has the same high pigment concentration as conventional inks, but is made with a non-harmful emulsified oil. It is therefore water soluble and can be cleaned with water rather than solvent. Use it the same way as traditional ink - for metal, wood, lino, aquatint and monotype techniques. Colors are available in 60 ml tubes, while blacks are also available in 200 ml jars.
We also manufacture complementary products specially formulated to accompany Charbonnel inks. The solvent-free clear medium can be mixed with the water-washable printing inks to increase transparency, thin and lighten, while the water-washable printing ink oil is equivalent to the clear, greasy and strong oils in our oil-based line.
Our range of water based inks is available in a choice of 12 colors, including black and white. Lefranc Bourgeois water based linocut inks are formulated to the highest professional standard and are custom made for woodcutting and lino engraving. Each ink will give a precise and high pigment result.
Linocut printing requires dry paper that is fine and smooth. The type of paper you use should be based on the type of printing you are doing, whether manual or with a press.
Try linocut printing with our new step-by-step tutorial. Discover each step: from the material required, to the engraving of the linoleum plate and the printing of your work.