What is Lino Printmaking? - Gel Press

What is Lino Printmaking?

Stepping into the vibrant world of printmaking can be an exhilarating experience for any art enthusiast. And for those teetering on the edge of this deep pool of creativity, Lino printmaking might just be the splash worth taking.

Let's explore Lino printmaking from the ground up, providing budding artists with everything they need to know to start carving their way into the art form.

What is Lino Printmaking?

Lino printmaking, short for linoleum block printing, is a relief printing technique that involves carving away material from a flat surface—usually linoleum—to create an image. Once the image is carved into the lino block, ink is rolled onto the surface, and the image is transferred onto paper or fabric through pressure, typically by hand or with a printing press.

Lino Printmaking vs Monoprinting

While Lino printmaking revolves around creating a design on a linoleum block which can be used to produce multiple copies of the same image, monoprinting is quite distinct. Monoprinting is a form of printmaking that's geared towards producing a single, unique print. Although a plate may be used to apply ink, the method of creation and transfer often results in variations each time a print is made. Thus, monoprints are inherently one-of-a-kind, while Lino prints can be editioned - printed in a series of identical pieces.

Similarities between Lino Printmaking and Monoprinting:

  1. Both techniques are forms of printmaking.
  2. They involve transferring images onto paper.
  3. Ink is used in both processes.

Differences between Lino Printmaking and Monoprinting:

  1. Monoprinting creates unique images per print, while Lino printing can produce multiple copies.
  2. In Monoprinting, the image is transferred once from the block to the paper, whereas Lino printing allows for repeated prints of the same design.

Is Block Printing the Same as Lino?

Sorta. Confusion often arises between block printing and Lino printmaking. Block printing is an umbrella term, like printmaking, which encompasses various methods of carving and printing from a block, not just linoleum. Lino printmaking is one specific type of block printing that uses linoleum as its medium.

Can You Do Lino Printing at Home?

Absolutely! Unlike some forms of printmaking that require large presses and specialized equipment, Lino printmaking can be done at home with relatively minimal supplies.

Famous Linocut Artists

Crafting Legacies

In the world of Lino printmaking, there are luminaries whose work has come to define the genre. These artists' contributions have left indelible marks in the linocut community.

  • Sybil Andrews

 Andrews' dynamic, mechanistic linocuts captured the energy of the Machine Age and remain contemporary despite their vintage.

  • Cyril Power

 Power's depictions of urban and rural life in interwar Britain are marked by a bold, angular style that continues to inspire new generations of printmakers.

  • Ethel Spowers

 Spowers' linocuts of everyday life exhibit a strong sense of design and composition that's both classical and forward-thinking.

  • Edward Bawden

 A notable name in both the fine and commercial art worlds, Bawden's linocuts span a broad range of themes and serve as a model for versatility in the medium.

Getting Started with Lino Printmaking

For beginners, the key to a successful Lino print is a mix of patience, practice, and the right materials.

Materials Needed

The beauty of Lino printmaking is in its simplicity. Here are the basics to gather:

  • Linoleum block

 Available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, this serves as the canvas for your design.

  • Linoleum carving tool (or gouges)

 These come in different shapes and sizes to allow for fine detail, straight lines, and curves.

 This is used to spread a thin, even layer of ink onto the carved linoleum block.

 Water-based inks are a safe and easy option for beginners.

  • Paper or fabric

 Use heavy paper like printmaking or watercolor paper, or try fabric for a unique medium.

Basic Lino Print Techniques

Once you have the materials, it's time to start carving and printing. Here's an overview of the process:

  • Design the Lino block: Decide on a design and sketch it directly onto the linoleum or transfer it using tracing paper and a transfer tool.
  • Carve the Block: Using the appropriate gouge, carefully carve away the areas of the block that you do not want to receive ink.
  • Ink the Block: Apply ink with the brayer, ensuring you get an even, thin layer over the entire surface.
  • Print the Block: Lay the paper or fabric on top of the inked block, and press gently with your hands or a barren to transfer the image.
  • Dry and Inspect: Carefully peel back the paper or fabric to reveal your print. Allow it to dry, then inspect and admire your work.

Tips for Linocut Beginners

  • Start with simple designs featuring clear outlines and minimal shading.
  • Practice different cutting techniques to master your gouge, including straight lines, curves, and tools like the 'V' gouge.
  • Focus on achieving even inking by adjusting the amount of ink used and how it's rolled for successful Lino prints.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Linocut

Pitfalls that Plague the Novice Printmaker

Even the most seasoned Lino printmakers started as beginners, and they've made their fair share of mistakes along the way. Forewarned is forearmed:


Applying too much ink or failing to achieve an even coat can lead to smudging and blurring in your prints. Always strive for a balanced and sparing application.

Incorrect Pressure

Too much pressure and you risk squishing the lines and details of your design. Too little and your print may come out faint or incomplete.

Design Intricacy for Beginners

Resist the urge to create intricate designs right off the bat. It's far easier to work with bold, simple shapes and lines while you're learning.

Inspiration and Resources

Artists to Follow

Check out these artists on Instagram for inspiration:

Books and Online Tutorials

A wealth of knowledge is also available in print and on the web. A few recommendations to get you started:

  • "Printmaking Handbook" by Louise Woods
  • "Linocut for Artists & Designers" by Nick Morley


Lino printmaking is an accessible and rewarding art form that beckons any creative soul to take up the challenge. As you carve your first linoleum block and transfer its image onto paper or fabric, you'll find satisfaction in every print you pull. And remember, every great linocut artist was once a beginner, just like you.

So take your tools in hand, feel the smooth surface of the linoleum beneath your fingertips, and begin carving your artistic path—one bold line at a time.