Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A block printing how to

Today I cracked out my recently purchased block printing materials and gave it a go after 14 years of not having tried it. It was a lot of fun and actually quite addictive so I thought I'd do a bit of a guide to how I did it for anyone who might like to try it themselves.

What you will need:
Cutting mat
Lino (I used gray silk-cut lino - it's purpose made for printing)
Cutting tools (be careful - these are sharp!)
Ink (I used a waterbased ink instead of oil as it's easier to clean)
A non-porous mat of some kind - preferably glass (I used a plastic sleeve but it was very fiddly and I almost ended up with the ink all over me - next time I'll be prepared!)
A rolling pin (I used a wine bottle! That way if it gets inky it won't matter)
Paper or whatever you choose to print it on (I used a textured paper from a sketch pad)

Step 1 - Plan your design. Possibly the most important step. I drew mine directly onto the lino with a pencil trying to keep in mind that the cuts would be quite wide and so allowing leway as I went.

Step 2 - (optional) Heat your lino gently in an oven. I found that my lino wasn't too stiff (except near the edges) so I skipped this because it wasn't really necessary.

Step 3 - Begin cutting! Your set of tools should have a few different cutting edges in it so give them all a try and see what you can do with them. For my detailing I used a small wedge shaped chisel and to remove larger sections I went with the curved ones. Take this step slowly and be sure to cut away from you (and all your fingers!). It is very easy to slip and cut yourself so be prepared with some bandages on hand. This step is a lot of fun and it's worth taking the time to get it right.

Step 4 - Lay your design down flat and preferably on some newspaper (I just used my cutting board). Place your non-porous surface nearby. Have your paper on hand and space to lay out the finished prints to dry (they'll need about 24 hours so make sure you have a space that doesn't need to be used in that time).

Step 5 - Inking! Put a small amount of ink on your non-porous surface and use your roller to spread it out. You want an even coverage on your roller so go back and forth a lot and just spread it around in general. Use diagonal strokes, vertical strokes and so on to get a nice coverage. Now roll it over your lino in nice even strokes.

Step 6 - When it is inked take some paper and place it on top of your print, then grab that rolling pin and start rolling. When you think you've covered it sufficiently peel back a corner and have a look, if it's not quite right then put it back and roll some more. Otherwise peel off the paper and place it somewhere to dry.

Step 7 - Congrats! Your print is done. Now you can do it again as many times as you like. When finished be sure to wash all your materials properly so they are ready to go again next time. Keep your lino flat when drying so that it doesn't curve and become difficult to use again.

Hope this is of some use to someone!

Remember, each print will have it's own unique qualities which is part of the fun. Here's the first three I did. You can see the variations quite easily.


  1. How fun. When I was growing up every summer my dad would teach us kids a new handi-craft. Each summer it was something new and different. We did painting, etching, carving, Stained glass, all sorts of stuff and of course...early on...photography and film and print processing. One summer we did this and it was great fun. You have reminded me of those wonderful summers.

  2. Wow, that would have been great. I'm glad I could help bring back some wonderful memories!

  3. I did a tea cup print in high school, I loved the whole process of making it, and the smell of the lino.
    Your sunflower one and fish one are lovely!