About Linocut

Linocut is a variation of woodcut printmaking in which a sheet of linoleum is used for the relief surface. Although linoleum is traditionally a floor covering that dates to the 1860s, the linocut printing technique was used first by the artists of the twentieth century. Since the material being carved has no directional grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects with lino than with most woods. 'Lino' is generally much easier to cut than wood, unfortunately the pressure of the printing process degrades the plate faster, therefore edition sizes are smaller.
Linocut Printing Process

initial drawing and transferring the design to the Lino

With a large mug of tea and my cat by my side, I begin to start sketching ideas for my print. Once I am happy with the design and decided on the colours, I reverse the drawing and transfer it to the lino block.

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Using specialist lino cutting tools, I then carve the design into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel, or gouge. The areas are removed where I don't want any colour - opposite to drawing. This leaves the raised, uncarved areas to represent a mirror image of the final composition.

Carving the design

If the design calls more than one colour, a block must be cut for each colour. The ink is mixed and worked to create the correct colour and consistency. In an effort to save the planet, I always use inks that are either water based or vegetable oil based, reducing the need for harsh chemicals.

Rolling out the ink

The ink is then rolled out thinly enough to cover the roller evenly, so that when there is a distinctive sticky sound - a bit like the sound of a plaster being ripped from the skin - the ink is then very carefully laid onto the Lino. Only the raised/uncut areas of remaining lino are covered with a thin layer of colour.

The inked up plate, ready for printing

The Lino block is put into a registration jig, a sheet of paper is gently laid over the top, whilst carefully lining up with registration points. I then impress the paper onto the inked block by putting it through my printing press.

The finished print

If the print uses more than one colour, the process is repeated for each block. When using oil based ink, it can take a week or so for each layer to become dry enough to accept the next layer of ink. The real excitement comes as you peel back the paper on the very final layer and you see your finished image for the first time.


Similar in principal to woodblook printing, linocuts became a popular medium for book and poster illustration as well as being adopted by artists, such as Edward Bawden, Andy Warhol and Picasso.