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Linoleum Block Printing

Rutuja Jathar
An ancient art, linoleum block printing can be performed by hands or using a press. Read on to know why is it popular even today.
Linoleum block printing, also called linocut, is a 20th century refinement in the field of producing relief cuts and printing with them.
This printing is a technique involving a sheet of linoleum and woodcut. Using this, the desired shapes or designs are carved on a linoleum surface with the help of a sharp knife or a gouge.
This method leaves an uncarved area depicting mirror image of the designs to print. This sheet is then attached to a roller, which is typically called brayer and then impressed on the desired fabric or paper. It is a simple method.

Some Ideas

Due to the durable qualities of linoleum (made of linseed), there is a certain fineness to the texture. It is also a fact that one single block can be used for making more than one print. Though it uses woodcuts, it is also important to remember that this type of printing differs greatly from woodblock printing.
Linoleum is easy to cut compared to wood and as a result, it cannot sustain the pressure and tends to degrade faster than wood printing boards. The tools include cut sheets, a dryer, other small wood carving tools like chuck with replaceable blades, gouge in various sizes, v-venor blades, and a brayer.
It is possible to get various colors by using separate blocks of linoleum for each color. You can also make a 'reductive' print (like that of Pablo Picasso) and have many colors on a single block.
Another method is the application of sodium hydroxide paste on its surface. This application creates a soft surface that can be printed in various techniques as intaglio, relief, or reduction. Due to its easiness, it is often included in schools as a prime part of kids' craft projects.
They are several homemade 'rubber stamps' that could be used for printing various designs on different fabrics and papers of all types. One can easily get hold of linoleum sheets as they are inexpensive and extremely easy to use.
All you need to do is to bring home some linoleum sheets and carve your design in a reversed manner (mirror image) on it. There are numerous shapes and designs extending from letters to faces that one can try.

Printing Method

If you are not good at drawing, there are ready-made design templates available in stores. For those, who are totally unaware of this print, here is a simple example to make a greeting card.
  • Ready to use linoleum block carving tool set
  • Linoleum blocks and block inks
  • Ink rollers
  • Paper or card of the desired size and color
  • Tracing papers
  • Soft lead pencil
  • Glass baking dishes (flat surfaced)
  • Paper towels and clean rags
✤ Pick the best design that you like, if you desire to print text, them make sure it is spelled right with no grammatical errors.

✤ Take the design in your hand and flip its side to place it on the linoleum block. Make sure that the pencil marks are downwards on the linoleum block.
✤ Tap down the borders of the design with a pencil (make sure the border marks are not too bold to overwhelm the design).

✤ Determine the size and place of the design you want to print. Trace the design from the back, without leaving a single detail and mark.
✤ If you are using more than one color, then it is advised to use more than one linoleum blocks.

✤ Once you are sure of having the whole design traced on paper, lift the paper from the linoleum block and put it aside. Place the linoleum block on a static surface and hold it tight with one hand.
✤ Use necessary carving tools and give shape to the block surface. Always use edging tool first so that you could get the outlines and straight lines, if any.

✤ Dust off the carved block with a clean rag.
✤ Now pour some linoleum block ink onto the smoothed block surface and roll it, using the ink roller. Make sure to roll it until the ink is evenly spread.

✤ Set aside the roller and place the colored block on the paper and press it gently. Now, let it dry and your greeting card is ready!
The key is to have a firm pair of hands and a little bit of patience that one needs to carve the linoleum blocks. Once you acquire both, then this carving project is a piece of cake for you.