Definition of linocut
Linocut is a printmaking relief technique which requires the use of gouges to carve a material called linoleum. Once carved, this linoleum is coated with a thin film of ink using an ink roller called a brayer. The ink is then deposited on the non-deepened parts of the support and the print is then obtained by pressing paper on the linoleum plate.
There are several options for the printing process. Depending on the ink used, you can use an printing press, a baren, or simply the back of a spoon for example. We will see all this below.
Which material for linocut ?
Linocut is a printing technique that allows the reproduction of patterns, drawings or prints without having to redraw them each time.
It also requires very little equipment to learn this engraving technique, which will delight those who want to start linocutting without breaking the bank.
We will see together the material necessary for linocutting.
Linoleum for linocuts
In order to engrave your design, you will need linoleum plates. The latter having a homogeneous texture and without any fiber, it will be much softer to engrave than wood. They come in many colors, thicknesses, materials and densities.
If you have been looking to buy these famous sheets, you must have come across the brown linoleum composed of different resins, cork flour and armed with its characteristic burlap. This is the linoleum I used to use a long time ago. I had stopped using it mainly because of its lack of contrast and its tendency to twist when wet.
I then used the grey linoleum which is more flexible and allows an excellent contrast with the pencil or the felt pen for example which is very good when you draw directly on the support. But because it can sometimes crumble a little and it does not appreciate water either I also abandoned it in favor of the softcut plates from essdee .
We are no longer in what is called linoleum but more precisely in PVC engraving plates. Similar to etching erasers, these ultra smooth plates are much softer to etch than traditional linoleum. They allow an impressive amount of detail and never warp or crumble. Neither in humidity nor under pressure. There is absolutely no need to force to engrave them, which also avoids unintentional strokes or injuries… For me it is a real pleasure to engrave and the prints are of very good quality with this support.
Flexible vinyl plate for blockprinting
As seen above, the soft engraving blocks are extremely flexible and therefore allow you to use your gouges without forcing them. Much more permissive than traditional lino, they will be appreciated by beginners but not only.
They are also thicker than all other plates and have the advantage that they can be engraved on both sides.
This can be a big plus for those who work in gradient.
These engraving erasers are also a great choice for anyone who wants to make stamps.
Gouges for lino printmaking
In order to engrave and carve the linoleum, gouges are used. These very sharp tools can be of various shapes, V-shaped, U-shaped, straight etc. Several brands stand out like Pfeil, Flexcut… When you want to start linocutting you often think that a small set of cheap interchangeable gouges will be enough. Instead, I recommend investing in a quality gouge set but without breaking the bank.
Feel free to read my article for choosing the right gouges for lino printmaking and see which ones I work with. Once you are familiar with the technique, you will be able to expand your range of gouges as needed.
Linocut Inks for Block Printing on Paper
Linocut inks can be either water or oil based. Their texture also varies a lot which makes them more or less pleasant to work with the brayer. But in my opinion, certain criteria are essential.
After having tested a good number of them, I retain only those which do not block the details of the linocut, offer an excellent density of colors in time and which dry rather quickly. Even if I own today among others the Schmincke and Charbonnel ranges, I prefer the ranges of the brand Cranfield which are excellent. We only regret that we can only find them abroad but otherwise their quality is irreproachable.
Interesting fact for beginners in linocut printing, Cranfield inks will also allow excellent printing even without a printing press. This will not be the case at all with other inks that require a lot of pressure. I invite you to take the time you need to compare and choose your linocut inks.
Ink rollers and brayers for linocuts
Again, don’t think you’re saving any money with low-end rollers. The use of a good brayer is indeed determining that to the quality of the final impression.
A poor quality roll will block details or not distribute the ink evenly. I personally use two Japanese soft rubber brayers purchased at Jackson Art. Whether you choose a soft or hard roller will depend on your purpose and the media you are engraving on.
But I think the soft ones are more pleasant to work with and render the details well.
Linocutting presses and baren
As seen above, depending on the ink used and the desired result, we will have to apply more or less pressure on the paper so that the print is perfectly printed. Not enough pressure and your print will not have the desired contrast and will have defects due to lack of ink.
Too much pressure and you will literally block out the details of your linocut. It’s all a question of settings, but remember that the more uniform the pressure, the better the print quality. The key is to choosing the right printing press not to invest in a tool you might be disappointed with.
Baren can also be a good choice if you want to learn without spending a lot of money. There are all kinds of them and they are available at all prices. Some baren even have the price of some small etching press. But don’t worry, you don’t need to invest in a very expensive baren to get good prints. As I often say, sometimes the simplest is the best solution.
The choice of paper for a successful linocut is not to be taken lightly either. Don’t hesitate to test several weights and textures to find the one that suits you best.
Do not hesitate to ask me your questions if you did not find answers to your questions. And happy printing press to all!