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Lino - The basics to get you printing...

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Revisiting an activity I never studied...!

Printing a subject I wish I had chosen in college. Thankfully I got to join some friends with trying a few processes and in Uni we had an assignment for screen printing, this led to me gathering lino sheets and tools for a home project.  The design idea came from a painting seen on a trip back to South Africa, the painting had a fish that looked like two elephants in a mirror image (my interpretation). I did a simple sketch which I thought would be the perfect test for my new lino-printing kit. 

Lino printing is a form of relief printing in which a design is carved into a block of linoleum, ink is applied to the surface, and the block is pressed onto paper to transfer the ink.

Here are the steps to get a finished artwork in (x)plicate!!


  1. Gather your materials: You will need a linoleum block (also called a lino block), a carving tool (such as a linoleum cutter or a sharp knife), ink or paint, a brayer (a roller used to apply ink), a printing press or a baren (a flat, round tool used to transfer the ink from the block to the paper), and printing paper. You may also want to have a sketch or design in mind, or a reference image to work from.

  2. Sketch your design: If you have a specific design in mind, sketch it onto the lino block using a pencil or a pen. Alternatively, you can trace an image onto the block using carbon paper or a lightbox. Make sure to reverse the image, as the print will be a mirror image of the block.

  3. Carve the block: Using your carving tool, carefully cut away the areas of the lino block that you do not want to print. Be sure to carve away the negative space, leaving the positive space (the parts you want to print) intact. Remember to carve gently and slowly, as it is easy to remove too much material by accident.

  4. Prepare the ink: If you are using a block printing ink, mix it according to the instructions on the package. If you are using paint, thin it with a medium such as linseed oil or mineral spirits to make it easier to apply to the block.

  5. Roll the ink onto the block: Use the brayer to roll a thin, even layer of ink onto the surface of the lino block. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the block, including the carved areas.

  6. Transfer the ink to the paper: Place a piece of printing paper over the inked lino block and use the printing press or baren to apply even pressure over the surface of the block. Gently lift the paper to reveal the print.

  7. Repeat the process: Repeat the process to create additional prints, wiping the block clean with a cloth or paper towel between each print. You may need to reapply ink to the block as needed.

  8. Allow the prints to dry: Set the prints aside to dry completely. Once they are dry, you can display or sell your linocut prints!

Remember to clean your block and tools thoroughly after printing to avoid mixing colors or contaminating your ink. With practice, you can create intricate and beautiful lino prints with multiple colors.

I traced the sketch onto the lino and started to carve, with many mistakes hidden, a fish/elephant reflection image was finalised. I then got a perspex sheet for rolling a thin layer of ink on which I would then roll onto the lino sheet. Paper was placed on top of the Lino and using a silver spoon I pressed the paper closer to the lino making sure the ink would transfer.

I got 10 of these prints and many tester ones where the ink didn't fully transfer...



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