DIY Linoleum Block Printmaking

Hi All! ⊗

One of my favorite projects from my high school art class was printmaking. I loved working extra hours outside of the class time by spending the hour and fifteen minutes I had for my lunch period, eating and working, in the art room on whatever project we had that week. This guide to printmaking will be done using a linoleum block carved with a speedball carving tool, a rubber brayer and printing ink. You will basically be carving a design of your choice into a stamp (the linoleum block) that can be reused over and over again! All of these items are fairly cheap if you order on Amazon, but if you can’t wait for them to be delivered feel free to visit a local store to pick them up.

First step: Pick your design and print it out!

Any design you chose will have to fit on your linoleum block. I am using a five inch by seven inch block. I am going to use half of the block for my design. If you choose a small design, like the size of a quarter, it will save space for more designs to fit on the block.

I am not the best free hand artist so I chose to print out my design and use a pencil and pen technique to transfer the design to the linoleum block. If you are a fantastic artist, draw your design out on paper then transfer it right on to the block.

Once you have printed out or drawn your design and fit it to where you want on the block, take a pencil and shade the back side of the paper entirely. Make sure to sharpen your pencil so the graphite is dark.

The finished print will be a reversed image of your design, so be mindful of this if you have letters or numbers. Tape down your design to the linoleum. With a ball point pen, trace over the lines of your design pressing hard, but not hard enough to create a rip in the paper. Remove the paper and your design will hopefully be entirely transferred on to the linoleum. Check that all of your design has been transferred before you move on to the next step.

Unfortunately, my printer was running low on ink so I had to make some adjustments to my kitty design.

Photo credit: Dakota Burr, for Mackieknitz

Second step: Carve out your design!

Using caution and a bench hook, begin to carve your design into the linoleum. Always cut away from your hands and your body. It is easy to slip and cut yourself with the sharp edges of the blade. Depending on which parts of your design you want raised, carve on or around the lines you have just transferred to the linoleum.

Always use a safe amount of pressure to carve. If your lines are too thin or too shallow, later when you apply the ink it will fill in the lines and they will not show on your print. We will do a test print later to make sure every line of the design transfers. Remember you can always come back to carve deeper into the linoleum to make a line more defined.

Use the largest blade attachment, in this case #5, to carve out large chunks at a time. Below you can see how I carved away large portions using the #5 attachment. Do not worry about having a flat surface where you have carved. The brayer will only cover the raised planes of the linoleum with ink. For the finer details in the face and corners, I used the #2 and #1 attachments.

Photo credit: Dakota Burr, for Mackieknitz

Photo credit: Dakota Burr, for Mackieknitz

Third step: Rolling and printing!

Have your ink and whatever you are printing on ready. I like to start with a piece of paper to test out my design. This way you can go back to clean up any lines that are not to your liking. Using any color ink, begin to roll your brayer into the ink.

Make sure to have an even coat on the brayer before rolling. Roll the brayer over your linoleum design, covering every part evenly. Place the block face down on to your test piece of paper and firmly press with your hands in a circular motion over the entire block. Carefully remove the block and your print will finally be done!

With printmaking, the point is to create multiple copies of your design. Each print will look a little bit different. The linoleum block is reusable so clean off the ink with soap and water when you are finished printing.

Photo credit: Dakota Burr, for Mackieknitz

As with any art project done by hand, there comes a few unavoidable style mishaps. Sometimes the ink will spread unevenly over the linoleum as you apply it. The ink can be unevenly applied, a fine detail could be filled with ink if you use too much, or you may forget to reverse your image like I did the first time. You will most likely not have a perfect print each time, that is just the nature of printmaking.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below! Also, I would love to see any block prints you have made using these steps.


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