Making a linocut is really easy, and you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment. Really!

The hard part is coming up with ideas for what to draw. The rest will come with a little trial and error and experimentation. Having a significant other who is as awesome as my wife who is supportive about time and my taking over the garage to turn it into a studio doesn’t hurt a bit. You can do this all at the kitchen table, but a dedicated space does rock, so you can leave things spread out.

Following are two separate how-to step-by-steps.
The first is basically what I do, the second is an activity for teaching young kids about printmaking using handy cheap materials and ballpoint pens to “carve” instead of sharp cutters. (skip down the page).

1) Linocut – How to

Linocut material – I started out with the fabric-backed battleship gray linoleum that’s been common for years. It is hard, not super easy to cut (though you can heat it with an iron to soften it) and then Daniel Smith (and some others) came out with “Safety Kut” – which is super soft, and is thick (you can carve both sides – like a 2 fer one!) and its not too rubbery (some of the other brands I find too rubbery which is one reason I stick with Daniel Smith’s).

Carving tool – I use the very basic, and quite adequate Speedball carving tools. Pretty much everyone sells these plastic handles and varied shape gouges.

Ink – I used to use the Daniel Smith’s oil based inks, but a few years ago they came out with water-based inks – which makes cleanup a breeze and once you get over the lack of awesome oil based smell you love them. As I said, they clean up easy – but once dry they are as durable as oil. Really – I have shirts I have stamped with the waterbased ink that have been through the wash many times – and they aren’t wearing out.

Brayer – For rolling out ink, and inking your block. Speedball basic brayer. You can spend more, but basic works for me here. Clean em, they last forever.

Baren – Bamboo Japanese “Student” Baren – its cheap, its fun to have a tool that looks pretty. But… your hand works too. Or you can get spendy and buy a press, but you don’t need a press unless you really really want an emboss when you print. It is fun to have a press, but again – spendy item.

Paper – Ooooh, yeah the coolest part of printmaking is trying out every paper under the sun. Find what you love. I personally love thin Japanese papers that you can see the image come up into as you rub it from the backside on your inked block. They aren’t all super expensive. That said – you can print on anything. I’ve printed on a car, a scooter, shirts, wood, metal, and many papers. One of my neighborhood coffee shops prints their logo on their paper cups by rolling the lino block around the cup.

Draw – draw whatever you plan to draw. Draw on paper, draw directly on the block, draw on your computer… Take a photo and print it out.

Transfer – If you don’t draw directly on your block, you’ll need to transer the image to your lino (safety cut, battleship gray, or whatever kind of lino you get) block.

My preferred transfer methods of awesomeness are:

Saral Transfer paper – (for transferring simple line drawings, this artist version of carbon paper is great, and it comes in different colors like graphite, red or blue.)

Laserprint onto cooking parchment – Huh? Yep. I took an all-day class on many transfer methods and this one ROCKS. Its perfect for transferring complex images like the portraits I have been doing. You buy cooking parchment paper, which is kind of waxed so food doesn’t stick to it – and cut it to 8 1/2 x 11 and stick a sheet in your laser printer (just one sheet on the stack of paper already there) and print to it. The toner sticks well enough to stick, but then when you lay it on your block and rub the back (fingernail, spoon, whatever) it transfers to the block. AWESOME. I wish I’d learned this one a long time ago. I can’t say what brand though… I just take it from my wife’s stash in the kitchen – so I don’t think brand matters much.

Also, you don’t have to be a slave to that transferred image when you carve it. Sharpie pens are your friend – draw on the block. Change yor transferred design to suit your needs – use different colors to denote different textures.

Using a computer to print a photo? – alter the image beforehand  – collage onscreen and then print.

Carve away (video to come) Ink it. Print.

2) Linocuts for kids (actually styrofoam prints)

This is a fun activity that I have done with kindergarteners and 2nd graders.

Styrofoam meat trays (have the parents save them and clean em up, you can also buy foam of the same density in sheets)
Ballpoint pen (one per child)
Ink (one or more colors)
Brayer (to roll out the ink)
Paper (anything will do)

Basically what you do is have kids draw with the pen on the tray, which will dent the tray. Then you ink the tray, then lay on the paper and press the back with your hand. Peel the paper and you have a print. Its a good 1 hour project for the kids if you have a volunteer to prep trays and paper ahead of time. Some will make several – some will focus a long time on their drawing.

I’ll dig up some images from what I’ve done to post them – just need to find which of my old hard drives they live on.