DIY Printmaking: How to Make Your Own Linocut Print

With just a few relatively inexpensive items from your local craft shop, you can try your hand at printmaking — a fun process that begins with carving a design into linoleum, and then transferring the design onto paper. Channel your 11th grade art class and set up your own little printmaking studio at home; here's a quick tutorial!

1. Gather your materials. There are many ways to go about printmaking — everyone prefers different substrates, brayers, inks, and techniques — fortunately, the supplies are relatively inexpensive, so don't be afraid to experiment and find what you like best! I used :

    • double-sided linoleum blocks, similar to these; $2.10 for a 5x7 block.
    • carving tool with interchangeable blades, such as this set; $7.56 for one handle and five blades.
    • printing ink or paint; look for inks that are made specifically for printmaking, like these; $2.89 for 1.25 ounces.
    • brayer or roller, like this 4" one; $7.85.
    • smooth surface for rolling out ink; I used a piece of glass from a picture frame and taped an edge with painter's tape for easy handling.
    • pencil and marker for sketching design.
    • cardstock or printmaking paper; I used basic cardstock from my local craft store.

2. Draw your design. Don't forget that your print will be the mirror image from the block, so keep this in mind if you incorporate type into your design. Some people prefer to take a permanent marker and shade in all the negative space so it's easy to tell what gets carved out and what stays. I opted to just sketch with pencil and go for it!

3. Carve out the negative space. Your carving tool will come with a variety of blade shapes, and they'll carve out lots of different tracks — some skinny and narrow, some wide and shallow — so choose a blade and start carving! Always carve away from your body and fingers, and try for a level, even cut — start with shallow cuts and get the feel for your substrate, and try not to dig too deep all at once.

4. Pour out a small amount of ink onto a clean surface. Once you're ready to start inking, start with a small amount on your glass.

5. Roll out ink with your brayer until it is smooth and velvety. Roll the ink until you feel like it's coating your roller evenly; it may take quite a few strokes!

6. Roll a thin layer of ink onto your block. Be sure and cover all of the design evenly.

7. Use steady pressure to lightly press cardstock onto your block. There are lots of ways to transfer ink to your paper — you can experiment and see what works! Try rolling a dry brayer over the paper to evenly distribute the ink, or place the paper on the table and press the inked design face-down onto the paper instead. I just used my fingertips to rub light circles over the whole block. Don't worry about getting the design perfectly straight — you can always trim off excess paper after the ink is dry.

8. Carefully remove the paper from the block. You may find (as I did) that the very first print you make is less than perfect… don't give up! It may take several tries to make a print you're happy with. You can go back at this point and carve more from your block if needed… and don't forget — part of printmaking is embracing the imperfections.

9. Let the print dry thoroughly, and enjoy!

10. Rinse ink off, let dry, and repeat. The neat thing about printmaking is the ability to make lots of copies; make a set of notecards, a pretty book jacket, or prints for friends!

MORE LINOCUT ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
How to: Linoleum Print Cards and Invites
The Lovely Lines of Linocut Prints
Linocuts by Catherine Deeson

(Images: Sarah Dobbins)

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