Block printing is fairly easy and affordable. You can make multiple prints and turn them into cards, frame them like posters, wrap them around books as covers, or decoupage them into wood like it’s the 70’s, and self-expression couldn’t be more natural than rejoining paper to its origin! The possibilities are endless, and all look professional! May the ever-watching eye of Duke guide you swiftly through this tutorial, to your own happy card-making place!
Acid Free Printing Paper
Transfer Paper (optional)
Linoleum Carving Tools
Palette Knife (optional)
Water Based Proofing Ink (optional)
Water Based Printing Ink
Glass or other smooth surface
Baren, or smooth metal or wood spoon
Simple Green Cleaning Solution
Rags or Paper Towels
You can freehand carve a design, but sketching it before carving allows more precision. The printed image will be a reverse of what you carve, so important information like text requires planning beforehand. Thinking of the block as only 2 colors may also help balance the negative to positive space in your design. Remember, linoleum block printing isn’t as well suited for fine line work as other processes, like etching. Finer lines may not hold ink, or may get rubbed out-of-place by your spoon or cleaning rags in between prints. So think in more 2D, larger lines when deciding how to flatten or shade shapes. Though the block is soft and somewhat forgiving, drawing directly on the linoleum is not recommended, as it applies pressure to areas you may not want to carve out. The more you plan now, the better you will feel about gouging out that linoleum!
To transfer a design, slip graphite transfer paper between your sketch paper and linoleum. Secure them together with tape, and trace over the parts of your design you want to transfer with a pencil or pen. Remove the taped paper, and voilà! You’re ready to carve! If you don’t have transfer paper, a lead pencil works the same way. Shade the back of the sketch paper, flip it right-side up, secure it to the block and trace over your artwork, just like above.
There’s many carving tools to choose from, and you’ll have to decide what’s best for your grip, budget and experience level. There’s no need to buy a 10 piece grip handle carving set if a simple 2 piece Speedball Linoleum Cutter fells better in your hands. And remember, this process isn’t suited for hair thin lines, but you can get more precision by using the right blade for the job. Detailed lines are made with the V-shaped metal tools, where larger sections are chunked out with the U-shaped ones. Heating the linoleum on a low setting with an iron can increase precision, too. There’s no right or wrong way to carve—and once you begin, you may find the material lends itself better to certain lines. Do what feels right!
Using a smooth, clean surface like glass will give you the most control over your ink. Tape the edges of the glass if it’s sharp with masking tape. Squirt or dab your ink on the clean glass with a palette knife. A lil’ dab will do ya! Rub it around in all directions with the brayer, creating an even, thin coat on both the glass and brayer surface. You don’t want the ink to glop into big lines, but if you still see clear glass, add a little more and roll it out again. The sound it makes when ready to apply to the linoleum is more of a constant wet shmushing, rather than sticky goop trying to work its way off a spinning tire. Once your ink is shmushy, roll it onto your linoleum block in all directions. If you have excess ink, you can roll it off the brayer on some newsprint and keep going.
Once your linoleum has a solid ink coating, lay your paper in the place you want. Get out that Baren, wood or metal spoon, or even another clean brayer—and get to rubbin’! Anything smooth and hard will do the trick, and circular motions work nicely. You don’t have to rub too hard or too fast, but you gotta put some elbow grease into it for a minute or so! Check how the ink is transferring to the paper by lifting up a corner of the paper. If there’s still splotchy areas of paper showing, get back to rubbing!
Peel your paper off the linoleum, starting from one edge. Did your print come out how you wanted? Do you need to carve away a few more chunks and reprint? Do whatever it takes to make your design baller—but clean that linoleum off with simple green if you let the block sit more than a few minutes between prints. The cleaner everything is, the better quality of print. Let your print dry flat for about 24 hours, and you have an amazing handmade art! Sign that bad boy if you want with your name and date. It’s your masterpiece, after all!
Gold by Garrett Olsen
Happy Christmas by Brianna Wray
Holiday Home by Bethany L. Potter
Was it easy? Did Duke’s presence guide you through the process? We sure hope our encouragement helps you enjoy the process! It gets easier with practice, and it’s a great way to get people collaborating for a couple of hours! Plus, even though multiples are possible, each printing is still unique. You’re making a work of art! And you’ll never have to buy a card again!
Follow our other handmade tutorials to avoid the Christmas cluster, and make your gifts meaningful! Happy Holidays!
❤ Catfight Craft