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.


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.


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.


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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68 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

    • Jeannette Young says:

      Yes, use an iron!

  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.

      • rob says:

        If you do happen to get the back of the lino wet (I’m pretty clumsy) you can stop it going curly by sandwiching it between 2 bits of something like glass as it dries ( I use 2 glass place mats/chopping boards which, incidentally, are what i use as my smooth surface for rolling out ink) and they dry nice and flat!

      • I’ve found using soap can dry the lino out quite quickly so now just try to use water to clean off water based inks.

  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?


    • 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:

    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.

  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.

    • Rahul says:

      About to do something with my class about linocutting and these have really helped! Thanks For the great info about linocutting

  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.


  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!


  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 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‘    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

  27. Jeannie Mackenzie says:

    Thanks for this. I was advised to buy a bench hook for safety, but made my own instead from some scraps of wood. It helps enormously!

  28. Alisa Lumbreras says:

    Thank you so much Lino Boy ,
    I am teaching children 7-15 this technique
    This summer and found your tips
    To be very helpful

  29. Brad Wieland says:

    Please add me to your mailing list if you have one. Thanks!

  30. says:

    I am having trouble trying to cut shading or halftone effect my cuts seem to be to bi Bob Read

  31. Tzin says:

    I would like to use lino cut shapes for printing on to ceramic biscuit ware. Is there such a thing as a ‘print medium’ that I can mix with ceramic oxide washes that will burn off in a firing ?

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  33. sue harpold says:

    I’ve been printing for 2 years; lino cut and gelli printing. I want to concentrate on lino and grow my skills. Your website has been a great teacher. Reflecting on my work, I recognize that I don’t spend enough time on the elements of design because I love the carving process ( plus I received Pfeil tools for Christmas). I would love any guidance or resources that you could offer.
    Sue in Idaho

  34. […] ainda mais força para segurá-la na mesa. Eu tô usando papel paraná, já ajuda bastante. Vi nesse post que também pode ser aqueles tecidos de […]

  35. Jeanne Casella says:

    I made my very first linocut 2 days ago. I think I’ve found a new passion. Thank you for these helpful tips.

  36. CHLOE TICKNER says:

    Any tips for getting a clean edge. Some of my last prints didnt have a perfect edge and i’m wondering if it could be i used old lino? Also if you have any tips for perfect printing to get it crisp? I think ive been over inking a tad (i think due to my roller which ive now changed, but it would be great to get advice.



  37. Susan says:

    This is a really helpful blog, generous with the info, and really useful. I’ve got all the tools, and now will make sure I get lino as fresh as possible. I’ve got several sheets of the rubbery stuff which I’ve fooled around on and found that I don’t really like; it’s too soft.

    I’m used to drawing, so tend to not think about the consequences of details – and I have a drawing ready, now I’m sitting here thinking about how to handle it. I tend to be dyslexic about what to carve and what not to carve. Your tip about drawing it out in ink should help. Thanks so much.

  38. Emma says:

    Hi Nick! Thank you for these tips, they are so useful to a beginner like me. Can you recommend any tools? I bought mine recently and suspect they are a bit on the cheap side, though I don’t know what I’m looking for when I look online- or how to tell what is worth purchasing. Thank you! X

  39. Laura says:

    Hi Nick, I love your website and all the helpful info. I can’t seem to find this anywhere, but how do you store your lino carvings after you’ve printed them? Can you stack soft lino (or the battleship) on top of each other in a plastic storage container? I’m running out of space, but don’t know what’s safest. Thank you!

  40. Amanda says:

    Hi. Has anyone ever put lino in the microwave to warm up? I use a blow dryer most of the time but I itching to try the microwave.

  41. carlo says:

    HELP. Am doing a large lino cut 1mx1m using Hosho Hik Paper, Silk Cut Lino and Derivan water based inks.
    Am using a Baren because of large size and am working quickly to get ink rolled onto lino then burnishing the paper down, all done within a few minutes, but on lifting the paper am finding the paper is sticking to the lino and coming off. Am using smooth side of the paper facing down onto the lino. In tests have found that ink transfers better on cheap coated paper!, Any ideas on how to solve this and avoid trashing $6 sheets of paper each time? many thanks.

    • Linocutboy says:

      Hi Carlo,
      I think you need to try a different ink. Water based inks dry quickly and for such a large block you won’t have time to print it by hand before the ink starts to dry and sticks the block to the paper. I recommend Cailgo safe wash relief ink but any oil-based relief printing ink will work. Hope that helps!

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