Fancy doing some lino printing (sometimes called block printing)? I had a go and it was great fun.
These are things you will definitely need…
- lino board
- lino cutting handle and blades
- paper or card (plus some ‘scrap’ for testing on)
- printing ink (or oil paints and ‘printing medium’)
- ink roller
- kitchen paper
- vegetable oil (or other cleaning medium, depending on what ink you’re using)
- glass or plastic sheet
- rolling pin
- old newspapers
- [nb - I have just discovered there's such a thing as 'extra soft lino' - I've not tried it, but it sounds like a lifesaver]
Recommended extra things you’ll need…
- even more kitchen paper
- bread board
- disposable plastic gloves
- first aid kit
First you need to think of the design you’d like to do – it can ‘negative’ so you carve out a line drawing and the ink fills the background (easier), or it can be ‘positive’, so you carve away all the background and the lines of the image are what print (harder).
Obviously I chose to dive right in with the harder approach and began to carve away at the background with a big blade. OH MY GOD it’s hard work, and so hard to control! A little googling later I found out that this process becames about seven hundred times easier if you warm the lino board in a low oven for a couple of mins first (and you’ll need to keep doing this through the process – oh and don’t use the microwave!). Phew, that’s better. It’s still quite tricky though, so be patient with it, especially with the curves and any fine detail. Oh, and don’t forget, you are carving a mirror image of what will actually print – very important if your design includes any lettering!!
Oh, and depending on how fond you are of having a full compliment of fingers and thumbs, carve AWAY from you. Probably best to rest on a bread board or such like too.
Depending on how deep you carve will depend on whether you get those little carving lines showing in the background when you print – sometimes this can be a good thing and adds to the look of the design. Otherwise, dig deeper!
Eventually you’ll be happy with your work (or impatient to get the printing started), so now it’s time to set up for the messy stuff!
A kitchen worktop is ideal for this, covered in lots of old newspaper. Get a sheet of glass or plastic – something that’s very smooth and non-absorbant and that you don’t want to use for food preparation ever again.
Squirt your printing ink (in my case one part oil paint to one and a half parts of ‘printing medium’). Blend if necessary and spead around with a palette knife. Now, get your roller, roll it slowly to cover with a layer of ink, then speed up so you’re going back and forth with it quite quickly (and at different angles too) this will give you a thin and even coating, which is great!
Roll your ink onto your lino, making sure all the raised areas are covered (especially round the edges). Now take some paper or card (you’ll want to do some test ones first) and lay it carefully in place. I used a rolling pin to roll over the paper – you’ll need to do this really quite firmly and in different directions. If you want to get professional about this, you can invest in the proper tool for this, which is called a baren.
Peel the paper away from a corner (have a peep before you peel it all away – at this stage you can always lay it back down and have another roll). Ta da! You have made your first print! You will need to ink the roller and lino for every print you do, but you’ll soon get the knack and be knocking them out at quite a rate after the first couple.
Cleaning up is a pain in the arse and the worst bit of this whole process. If you didn’t wear gloves up until this point, you’ll want to put some on now – ideally disposable ones. Kitchen paper is the best thing for this job, along with a cleaning solvent (in the case of oil paint and printing medium you can use vegetable oil).
It’s worth spending time cleaning your lino carefully as you’ll be able to use this again and again.
Depending on the thickness and type of ink you’ve used you’ll need to allow at least 12 hours for drying – possibly more than this.
If you have a go at this I’d love to see your finished results!