A Guide to Block Printing
The Relief Printmaking Process, Techniques and Supplies
Welcome! This is a collection of my most popular posts and artist 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 DIY tutorials to more advanced techniques. I've also included some answers to printmaking FAQ's near the bottom of the page.
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.
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.
My online relief printing classes are self-paced so you can start anytime. Perhaps you want to learn the basics? Or, are ready to learn all about reduction printmaking? Let’s go!
The Best Lino Cutting Tools for Artists
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.
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.
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.
For work in progress photos, updates, and new block printing process videos, join me on Instagram.
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?
I use battleship gray linoleum. (more details about choosing and buying linoleum)
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?
Sure! I've explained the step-by-step process of making a reduction 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
In this time-lapse video I transfer my image from one linoleum block to another during the process of making a multi-block linocut print.
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
This video shows how I print my linocuts using an etching press.