Top tips for beginner lino printers
Welcome to the Cosy Craft Club's lino printing month! We really want to encourage you to have a go at lino printing yourself, and we'll be sharing the key things you need to know to get started. You can find all our lino printing posts in one place here.
Lino printing is a craft that many people try at school but then never pick up again. This versatile craft is great for creating artwork and cards, or even printing on fabric. Be inspired to have go for yourself with these top tips for beginners from talented UK lino printers!
Be patient and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Oh and probably the most important one is don't cut towards yourself!
Be confident with it! It doesn't matter if you make a few mis-cuts as you get a feel for the cutting process, no one else will know.
Start with the eyes! (or most crucial part of the design) If you are doing something with eyes it might be a good idea to do those first and then if they go wrong you can adapt your design or start again. Nothing worse than cutting out the whole cat, whisker by whisker and then chopping off one of the eyes by accident. I often practice cutting a fiddly shape out on a spare scrap of lino before I do the real one.
It is all back to front - often [that] doesn't matter but it will if you have got words!
There are so many parts to lino cutting (design, cutting, inking, printing) that it can take a few goes for them all to fall into place, so don't be disheartened if you don't manage to do every bit perfectly first time...or second time. That is the joy of hand printing.
I would recommend a beginner or refresher course at an art or printmaking studio if that’s possible. I had a gap of about 12 years between art college, working in the city and getting back into printmaking. I found evening classes at a local studio and it took off from there. I work from home now, but the use of studio equipment and meeting with other crafts people was an invaluable experience and fun way to get started!
Get a kit and give it a go! You may find that there’s a bit of a steep learning curve while you work out what to carve and what to leave in order to create your image, but even the most simple designs can be really effective. Also, roll out thin layers of ink on to your block to avoid it seeping in to your cuts and, if printing by hand, use thin printmaking or acid free paper as it’s really hard to get a good print on thick paper.
Use a test piece to try and make lots of different types of marks with the cutters first before planning a design. Also sketch ideas before moving on to cutting, bold graphic shapes are easier to cut to begin with so nothing too intricate, cutting technique and accuracy comes with practice.
Make sure you have sharp tools! Blunt tools make carving very difficult. You can sharpen tools yourself, I use a Japanese water stone. You can also buy a sharpening block from Flexicut tools which is very easy to use. Choose your lino carefully. If you want to use the traditional grey hessian backed lino (which I use), it should be fairly pliable, and you should be able to smell the linseed oil in it. It can be heated on a radiator to make it easier to carve. There are lots of easy cut lino alternatives too, which are rubbery and soft- they are usually good for beginners.
I think the best thing to do is practice, as it takes time to get used to the tools. I also think it's good to try using regular lino and soft cut to see which one you find the easiest to work with.
Thank you so much to all our lovely lino printers for sharing their knowledge. I hope you’ve found some useful nuggets in there. And don’t forget to click on the links to check out more of their work!