I first learned how to make lino cuts during my art GCSE and loved the whole process. It is a cheap way of creating your own printed images. Once you have the basic equipment you can start creating images straight away. You will need:
Lino blades and handle (you can buy these in a pack of 10 different shaped blades for different effects)
Block printing inks (I started with just black then I got red/yellow/blue and then mix to create other colours)
Brayer (Roller) (I have 2: 1 x 2” and 1x 4”)
Glass Sheet to roll out ink
Paper/fabric to print on
All of these are readily available in many art and craft shops and places such as EBay where you can get a lot of 2nd hand equipment. Living near Manchester I get a lot of my stuff from Fred Aldous on Levers Street, I can spend hours in their basement and they have stuff to suit every art and craft need.
To start you need an image. I used a photograph of St Peter Port in Guernsey I took whilst on holiday in April. I picked out a few interesting buildings and simplified the image. Although when you have done a few prints and practiced you can start to get more detail but to start I would choose a simple image with few details. This image I then trace with a heavy pencil and then transfer to the lino board by pressing heavily down on the back of the tracing paper, like taking a rubbing.
Once you have your transferred image you can start using the different blades to cut into the lino board (it is good to have a play around on a small piece of scrap lino board to get a feel for the different blades and the way they cut).
I normally start with a fine pointed V shaped blade for the finer lines and then a larger scoop blade to remove larger areas. You have to be very careful and confident because once you have removed and area you can not put it back! Always cut away from your hand and never put your hand in front of the blade to steady the board. I have cut myself with a lino cutter before and it is not nice and it hurt so much I fainted but as you can see it didn’t put me off and I haven’t done it since!
I normally cut little by little and keep checking against my drawn image. You do not have to always cut deeply into the lino as it will hold very delicate lines scratched onto the surface. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to imagine how it will print so I sometimes take a quick rubbing over what I have done and it should give you a good image and you can continue cutting away.
Once you are happy with the image, trim away the excess lino board as you don’t want it interfering with your final image. You are now ready to print.
I use a large piece of glass from a picture frame to roll out my inks but anything with a smooth washable surface that you don’t mind getting a little stained will work. It is surprising how little ink you need for a print (depending on the size of your image) though it is a fine balance as too little and your image will not be clear and too much it will seep into the cut out areas of your lino cut. You will very quickly learn to judge by eye the right amount. Now use the brayer (roller) to roll out the ink. I normally roll it out side to side and up and down. You only need to spread it out a little and listen for the ink to make a tacky sound which means it is ready to apply to your lino cut, making sure it is covering all of the brayer. Then roll onto your lino cut, you will see your image quickly appear.
You can print the image in 2 ways. I have the paper or fabric ready on the table with newspaper underneath and place the inked lino cut on top and use a clean roller to help press down on the image or you can have the inked lino cut face up on the table and place the paper on top and use a spoon to rub in little circles across the image. Make sure that you press down on the image as once you have taken the lino cut off you can’t put it back to repress but you can always re-ink and do it again on a fresh sheet if you are not happy. If the image is not exactly right you can always cut a little more away from the lino cut.
Just mess around and have fun. Try with different colours or maybe add a different lino cut like a collage. You can even print onto fabrics like the ones I have printed on Linen below. I hand painted the houses using fabric paint. I made the t-shirt for my husband as he liked the image so much. I used Speedball Fabric screen printing ink that you iron to fix to the fabric so that it can be washed. You roll the ink in exactly the same way as if you were printing on paper. Natural fabrics work best such as cotton and linen.
Why not have a go and send me a photo of your finished project and I will feature it in my blog.
Visit my Folksy shop to see other lino printed gifts.