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Top Ten Tips for Linocutting

Here are my top ten tips for linocutting.

Practise first

Before you go straight into carving a design make a test print on a small piece of lino. Practise making a range of marks. Don’t worry about making a recognisable image, just play around and make as many different shaped cuts as you can – lines, dots, dashes, circles, marks which get thicker and thinner.

Use a range of tools

If you can, get a few different tools: V-gouges, U-gouges, large and small. Use all the tools you have, each will make a different kind of mark. For example, a V-gouge will make a very fine line if you use just the tip. If you carve deeper it will make a wider line.

cutting_angle

Learn how to control the tool

You control the tool by the angle you hold it at. Holding it at a steeper angle makes the cutting edge go deeper. Holding it at a shallow angle brings the cutting edge up. With practice you should be able to carve a continuous line by finding the right angle. If you keep slipping, lift the handle slightly to make a steeper angle.

Draw your image out in ink

Drawing your image out in black ink will help you visualise the design and ensure you cut away the correct parts. You may even want to shade in all the areas that will be black on your print completely.

inking lino block

Sharpen your tools

Sharp tools give you more control and enable you to cut clean lines with less effort. A lot of cheaper tools are not sharp when you buy them, which doesn’t help matters. Tools should be sharpened little and often. Use an oilstone or Japanese wetstone. There is a very long and intense video on sharpening tools on youtube here.

Use fresh linoleum

Linoleum is made from natural materials: linseed oil, cork and resin. Over time it dries out and becomes hard and brittle. Fresh linoleum smells of linseed oil and is flexible. Make sure you buy fresh! I recommend Intaglio Printmaker.

linoleum

Carve away from your hand

If you follow a few basic principles you should be able to prevent ever cutting yourself. The first and most important of these is to cut away from your hands.

Carve on a non-slip surface

Placing your lino on a non-slip surface like rubber of felt means you don’t have to hold onto it with your non-cutting hand. This will save a lot of energy and arm-ache. You can buy cheap non-slip matting from pound shops.

non_slip_mat

Move the lino round

As you carve in different directions, rotate the lino block rather than twisting your body around. This will save you more energy (just imagine what you will do with all that saved energy!) and avoid you cutting inwards towards your vital organs.

Take frequent breaks

Carving lino takes concentration. Rest your brain and your eyes frequently by going outside to look at the clouds or doing some squat-thrusts (see, that extra energy came in useful).

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39 Responses to Top Ten Tips for Linocutting

  1. A very well layed out blog showing the technique well, however, when I was taught this medium 60 odd years ago I was advised to warm the lino prior to cutting in order to ease the blades through the lino thus giving a finer edge to the design.
    I trust you will agree!
    In friendship, Howard

    • Nick Morley says:

      Hi Howard. Thanks for your comment. Actually, I never feel the need to warm my lino. I think this is because the lino they make now is softer to cut, but it’s also because I use fresh lino and sharp tools! I find warming up the lino makes it a bit crumbly which can be dangerous when you are doing fine detail work.

      • Howard says:

        I still have the old stuff stuck to thick ply blocks.
        I did buy some modern, supposedly easy cut stuff lately. It’s a bit like a sheet of rubber!
        Have not used it yet.
        Keep cutting, H

  2. Mel Kolstad says:

    Wonderful advice! Thanks so much, LCB! 🙂

  3. Beanser says:

    Read this when I was in the middle of my first ever linocut, and you’re tip about using a rubber slip mat saved my sanity, had one in the car! Otherwise would have given up, so thank you 🙂

  4. Lauren Parnell says:

    Hi, I haven’t done any lino for YEARS and for my Final Major Project I am doing a Lino print. Testing my skills, however I can not see ANYWHERE the best way to clean the lino and the ways NOT to clean?

    Do you have any tips?
    As I feel I may have ruined my Lino or have Rubbish ink.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Nick Morley says:

      Hi Lauren. Oil-based inks can be cleaned up with vegetable oil. To remove the oily residue at the end you can use a drop of white spirit, or preferably Zest-It, which is safer. Use a soft cotton rag (an old T-shirt is ideal) and wipe gently to avoid damaging the block. To clean water-based inks use soap and water, but avoid getting the back of the lino wet as it will go curly.

  5. Great info – very clear and inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

    Louise Slater

  6. Angie says:

    Super blog! I’m wondering if any of you know, can you sharpen those Speedball carving tools that you buy in the craft stores? The ones that have the interchangeable blades that store in the handle? Thanks.

    • Nick Morley says:

      Hi Angie. You probably could, but I don’t think it’s worth it as they aren’t very good quality. If you want to stick to the Speedball ones I would just buy replacement blades. Sorry to be so blunt (ho ho).

    • Miss Dishy says:

      Any tips for printing? Like paper stock or method of printing?

  7. Andi says:

    Any tips on preventing linoleum from drying out?

    Thanks.

    • Nick Morley says:

      Hi Andi. I would keep it in a drawer and maybe wrap it in plastic. And keep it in a cool place. Just like food I guess! It’s the moisture in the linseed oil evaporating which makes it dry out so it might work to rub some fresh oil into it too. Hope that helps!

  8. Yvonne says:

    What paper do you recommend? I’ve been using Japanese Simili paper, 80g/m2. Sometimes the strip of plain white paper between the printing and the mount goes “crinkly”. How can I prevent this? Should I use a different paper? Thanking you in advance….

  9. sanderling says:

    Hallo
    I have been occasionally trying out lino cutting for some time, off and on, and I find I am clumsy and make hard work of the actual carving. I find shallow finer lines easier as when I did deeper I mess up. I just want to be better at it. Won’t give up.
    PS

  10. vera says:

    Hi Nick

    Very nice website. just watched how you did the submarine man, such great work! Now, what tools do you use for painting the sketch on the lino, the black and white ink and the brush. Could you please give me a brand name or something so I know what to look for? Looks extremely useful! That would be very kind. Thanks in advance.

  11. Rachael Durrant says:

    Hi Nick

    I’m very new to lino cutting, and wondered if you had any tips for cutting a gravel effect for small stone beds in a landscape?

    I can’t seem to find a tool to cut dots.

    Rae

    • Elizabeth says:

      For smaller dots try using a V blade, placing the tip slightly into the linoleum and then spin either your tool or the linoleum. It just takes practice.

  12. Jenni Burgess says:

    Thanks for the tips, really really useful!

    Question: do you think I could use my little dremel hand drill for cutting dots?

    Best wishes , Jenni Burgess

  13. Cat says:

    Hi there!
    Excellent tips. I’m currently attending a print class, and the tutor is useless – no basic information supplied re practicing using the tools. So your advice is much appreciated.

  14. jordan says:

    Really good tips, many thanks for sharing.
    Been following your work now for a while since wanting to experiment with lino cutting. Keep up the good work!

    Jordan

  15. Nimpreet says:

    Thanks! It was a really big help since in school we are studying in art, Lino Cutting so it help nicely and i understood how to do lino cutting which then helped me with my homework. Once again thanks!

  16. Jim says:

    I have been cutting lino for a cpl of years…starting with the commercial VCT that, incidentally, I will be gluing to my kitchen floor soon.

    So I have been finding the commercial carving lino to be a little bit mushy, as it wants to pile up in front of my cut like a wave.

    Looking at posted work by others I have begun to think that a lot of artists use Dremel type tools.

    Comments? I have a good set of two sizes of chisels, and sometimes use the little kit set.

    • Mike says:

      I have bought a dreamed and had a go . It works fine but I still have to find some finer carving bits. The one I have is ok but a bit big for detailed work.

  17. Mike says:

    I just bought my tools and lino as I misplaced years ago. About to try out some cutting again. I did lino cutting 25 years ago and jabbed the flesh between my thumb and forefinger…..ouch, never deterred! I used to rub the back of the paper with a spoon as I have no press. Any better ideas?

  18. […] is  a quick Journey throughout this term,  visits of studios and learning the process of Lino cutting […]

  19. Ilze Coombe says:

    Very instructional. Must try getting your new book. Will it be available through Bookdepository? I’ve just done my first 2 lino cuts and seem to know instinctively how to do it, which was an enormous surprise to myself. My teacher didn’t believe I’ve never done it before. Can I subsctibe to your blog please? and how? Thank you, Ilze in Australia

  20. cindy says:

    I appreciate all the info and the blog…I never read blogs..but most of my questions about sharpening blades, lino have been answered. ..who,d a thunk. Thank you.. do you have any suggestions on buying the lino blocks..my recent purchase of blocks from an art store proved crumbly and dry…… cc

    • Nick Morley says:

      Hi Cindy, try Intaglio Printmaker in the UK or Dick Blick if you’re in the USA (or Silk Cut if you’re in Australia…)

  21. Melinda Hudson says:

    Is it possible to refresh old lino have a huge piece that I wouldn’t want to waste?? Thanks x

  22. Annie Harding says:

    Any way of filling in a botched line

  23. tara says:

    i have an old lino artwork i carved 20 years ago and its very dry. any way i can soften it up toi print? linseed oil,??thanks tara

  24. […] looking through his website I came across a post named ‘Top Ten Tips for Linocutting‘ http://linocutboy.com/top-ten-tips-linocutting/    These ten tips […]

  25. Bo says:

    I love making lino prints but,, because I use several layers of ink and do not have a press, the end result is speckled with all colours showing through.. I do not get blocks of solid colour. The prints have a “painterly” effect which is intentional. I like this but feel it could be frowned upon by “purists”..Do other printers use this technique??

  26. Zajímám se o linoryt, ale potřebovala bych to v čestině odepsat. Děkuji. JK

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