A Guide to Block Printing

The Relief Printmaking Process, Techniques and Supplies

Welcome! This is a collection of my most popular posts and DIY resources for block printing techniques, materials and relief carving tools. You'll find almost everything you need to know, hopefully, about linocut printmaking, from beginner tutorials to more advanced techniques. I've also included some answers to printmaking FAQ's near the bottom of the page.

Marin Headlands Relief Print

What do I mean by block printing? Block, or relief, printing includes linocuts, woodblock prints, rubber stamping - pretty much any method where you carve into a material (a block, plate, etc.) and print an impression of the carved surface. I hope you find these resources helpful and feel free to contact me anytime.


The Best Inks for Block Printing on Paper and Fabric

I break down my findings from trying 17 block printing inks to see which ones work the best for printing on paper and textiles. It includes inks by Caligo, Speedball, Gamblin and Schmincke.

 

How to Linocut: Online Blocking Printing Course

This relief printing class is perfect for beginners or those who want to hone their fundamental skills. It's a self-paced course and you can start anytime. Ready to start?

 

The Best Lino Cutting Tools

I use many different types of lino carving tools such as the simple Speedball Lino Cutter and finely crafted Japanese woodblock tools. This is what I like, and don't like, about them.

 

The Linocut Process: How to Make a Linocut

This is a great place to start if you're new to linocutting and want a breakdown of how you make a print and what supplies you need.

 

The Linocut Process: Multi-Color Prints

Want to know how to make multi-color prints? Here I lay out the common methods of printing in multiple colors such as rainbow rolls and the reduction technique.

 

Making Linocut T-Shirts

I like printing linocuts on t-shirts and I've got some tips about textile printing.

 

Reduction Linoleum Prints and Fixing Mistakes

I've outlined the steps to creating reduction prints - one of my favorite linocutting techniques. There are also some suggestions on how to fix carving mistakes.

 

Printing Presses for Block Printing

I use two etching presses to print most of my linocuts and I've written some thoughts on what to look for in a press, as well as some tips on printing linocuts on an etching press.



Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a linocut print?
    • A linocut (or lino print, linoleum block print) is a type of relief print where you carve into a block of linoleum and take a print from the inked surface of the block. (the process of making a linocut print)
  • How do I transfer my drawing or image to the linoleum block?
    • I usually first trace my image onto tracing paper. Then I flip over the tracing paper to reverse the image. Using graphite paper, I then trace the image to transfer it onto the linoleum block.
  • What type of linoleum do you use for printmaking and where can I buy it?
  • What supplies or materials do I need to make a block print?
  • What type of ink is used for block printing?
    • Look for "relief printing" or "block printing" ink, rather than paint. You'll also want to choose between oil-based and water-soluble inks. Here's a review of block printing inks.
  • Can block printing ink by used on fabric? What's the difference between block printing ink and screen printing ink?
    • I prefer block printing ink that's designed for use on fabric and am more pleased with the results than when I use screen printing ink. Screen printing ink is usually a little too thin to coat the block nicely. (details on printing on fabric like t-shirts)
  • Reduction printing is confusing - can you explain the process of making a reduction lino print?
  • What type of printing presses do you use?
    • I've used a Blick Econo Etch Model II Press and Blick 999 Model II Etching Press for many years. (reviews of my presses)
  • What order do the blankets go on an etching press?
    • The catcher, the thinest blanket, goes closest to the paper, followed by the thickest blanket (the cushion), with the pusher blanket on the top of the stack. I only use the thickest blanket when I print linocuts on the press.
  • Do I need a press to block print at home?
    • Nope! You can print by hand using the back of a spoon or baren. This will work fine, particularly for smallish prints.

Quick Reads and Videos

Picasso and the Reduction Linocut

  • I don't think it's widely known that Picasso produced some amazing linocut prints. He was a fan of the reduction technique and I've written a little about him, including this blog post, which is accompanied by a fascinating video.

Linocut Registration Technique

The Making of a Three-Foot Linoleum Print

  • A few years ago, I carved a 3-foot square linoleum block for printing by steamroller and I wrote up a little overview of my process.

Rainbow Roll Technique

  • Here I roll out a rainbow roll on a lino block and show its effect once printed on paper.

Using an Etching Press to Print a Linocut