How to create a lino print

We’ve been making some lino prints at toggle HQ this week. It’s a cheap and easy way to create bold, graphic prints and can be applied to virtually any material.

You will need:

  • Lino handle and assorted cutters
  • Lino
  • Block printing water colour. If you want a waterproof ink, look for block printing ink
  • Rubber ink roller
  • 2 sheets of acetate
  • Paper
  • Tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Washing up liquid
  • Mixing stick

Step 1: Sketch out and trace your design

Begin by sketching out your design. Once you have done this, put your design over a lightbox (a window is a good low cost alternative) and create a reverse trace on tracing paper – a reverse trace will ensure your design is not back to front when transferred onto your lino.

Step 2: Transfer trace onto lino

Place your tracing paper onto your block of lino – pencilled side down. On the back of the tracing paper, use a pencil and draw/scribble over the lines on the other side to transfer outline onto the lino.

Step 3: Cut out your design

Lino cutting tools layed out

You are now ready for the fun part! Remember that any part you cut away will not have ink on it. Use your lino handle and cutter attachment to remove strips of lino. A trick for making the lino easier to cut is to heat it up gently with a hair dryer – this is especially useful for intricate areas.

Rubber tree carved in lino

You do not need to ‘dig’ the lino off the surface. Instead try and run the tool almost horizontally and remove the lino in strips.

I cannot stress enough here to watch your fingers! It’s very easy to slip when cutting out the lino and the ends of the cutter are v-shaped and quite sharp. It’s tempting to put your fingers close to where you are cutting (a bit like when you draw), but try to avoid doing this. As I’m typing this, I have 2 painful fingers from creating the featured print!

Step 4: Prepare your ink

For this stage you will need 2 sheets of acetate (or similar smooth surface). On one sheet put a blob of block printing ink and a small blob of washing up liquid. Mix the washing up and liquid and ink together – the washing up liquid is optional, but helps to prevent the ink from drying too quickly on the roller.

Once you have mixed your ink, transfer a small amount onto your second sheet of acetate. For the example shown (A4 print) I used about a 10p sized blob. Use the roller to smooth out the ink, rolling up and down and then sideways so that the ink evenly distributes across the acetate.

Green block printing ink on acetate

When the ink is ready, it will sound like a ‘whisper’. If it sounds ‘sticky’ then you know you have either got too much ink or you need to keep rolling it until it’s smooth.

Step 5: Ink it up!

Inking up lino with a roller

Now your ink is prepared, you are ready to apply it to your lino. Roll the ink on and then place your piece of lino face down onto the paper.

Inked rubber tree lino cut

If you have a printing press then you can roll it through that. If not, then just apply some pressure to the print or give it a good rub with your hand. Then you can peel back your paper and admire your handy work.

Drying prints

Step 6: Clearing up

It’s best not to let the ink dry on your roller. If this happens it can clog which will give you uneven ink distribution. Wash rollers under luke warm water and allow to dry. When you have finished with your lino, give it a wipe with a damp cloth, making sure to remove all wet ink and leave to dry.