All About #Printmaking – Part 1: #Linocut
In this series of blog posts I am going to talk a little about what some of the printmaking techniques are that we use throughout our classes and courses. Seeing as I have written a book on the topic, I though the best place to start was… linocut.
But first, for those new to printmaking entirely – what is Printmaking?
What Is Printmaking?
Printmaking is essentially the process of creating an original ‘print’, by transferring an impression from one surface to another. In other words it is not a direct process such as drawing or painting but any method that allows an artist to create an image in one place that is then transferred to another. Prints are usually created onto paper but experimenting with other materials is very common. The dictionary definition of a print is:
Print (noun) – A mark made by pressing something onto a surface.
However, prints in the context of printmaking are designed and created by printmakers and classed as original prints. These prints are not reproductions of original works, but original works in their own right. They can be one-offs such as monoprints or have a much larger number of identical (or near identical) images.
What is Linocut?
Linocut is a type of relief printing. Relief printing, is a collection of negative techniques where the plate or block is cut into to create an image. The area that is left is what prints and the cut area remains the colour of the printing paper. The final print will be a ‘mirror image’ of the original plate. These techniques can be printed by hand or using a press. Several blocks can be prepared to produce multiple coloured prints. Relief processes include linocut, woodcut and wood engraving but also loosely techniques such as collograph.
Linocut therefore uses linoleum as the printing block. Linoleum is a composite sheet material (originally used for flooring) made from a mixture of powdered cork and linseed oil that has a hessian or burlap backing. The linoleum that printmakers use is specially prepared for the purposes of relief printing and usually comes in thicknesses such as 3mm or 5mm and is either brown or grey in colour. Printmaking suppliers will either supply the lino in rectangular blocks of different sizes or a large roll. Due to its flexible nature and thickness of just a few millimetres, these blocks and rolls can be cut to the desired size using a Stanley knife and metal ruler or even a pair of scissors if an unusual shape is required.
The surface of the lino is smooth and flat, making it a good material to begin relief printing with. However, some lino can be relatively hard for example in cold weather or when the lino becomes more brittle with age. To make this easier to cut it is often a good idea to warm the lino before cutting using a hairdryer or radiator to make it more flexible.
There are several different V-shaped tools, gouges and knives that can be used to cut into the lino and each different tool will make a different mark. Some tools will make thin detailed lines and others are used to remove large areas of lino when flat white space is needed. Woodcut tools will also work with lino and all these tools can be purchased from most printmaking materials suppliers.
Like other relief printing methods, it is also a negative technique where the cuts that you make do not print. I always find that learning the basics is quite simple, but mastering the techniques and skills to create complex works can take time and practice.
We love lino so much that we even write a book about it called Learning Linocut.
Please see some examples of linocuts from students below.
Thanks for reading!