Multi-Media Materials: Lino Print Your Holiday Cards!

Tired of the same old same old when it comes to Holiday cards? This year, try some linoleum block printing – and this is the perfect time to start – unless you are a procrastinator with good intentions like me – then you’ll start in about a month, maybe 6 weeks.. 🙂

To start, order yourself up some linoleum blocks. There are a lot to choose from. Try a catalog like Dick Blick – I am a big fan of the Soft-Kut blocks they sell. You can use both sides, they are easy to cut and you can buy a big sheet and easily cut it up for smaller prints.

a variety of linoleum blades.

You will also need some lino cutters, a brayer and ink. Be sure to get a variety of blades for your cutter (the link above is a kit with multiple blades and a handle)  and an exacto knife works well to cut the block apart. (you only need to score it and fold — the soft-kut blocks break apart very easily.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the details —  like paper, ink color and design. The key to lino printing is to think in positive and negative shapes. Anything you cut OUT on the block will be the color of the paper — it will NOT hold ink and will not print. Anything that stays will hold ink and therefore be your ink color. Texture and Value can be accomplished using a small lino cutter and either doing small cuts in surface, much like crosshatching or making little dots like stippling. Any marks that will cause the area to hold less ink.

To begin your print, transfer a pencil drawing on to your soft-kut block by turning the drawing face down on block and rubbing the back. It is nice to use a pencil for this so you can see where you’ve transferred without having to lift the drawing. The image will then be backwards, which is perfect since it’ll print the right way! **Remember – any numbers and letters need to be backwards on the printing block!** (you can also draw directly on the block, the as I mentioned above, you’ll need a reversed design!)

all of the background is removed, with some texture remaining.

Next – start cutting. Be careful and never cut towards your own hand. This is not your high school linoleum though, it is smooth to cut and does not require a bench hook to hold it in place. As you work, you can ink your plate to see your progress.

a plate in progress...

To ink your plate, use a piece of cardboard or another flat surface to roll out  your ink. Place a toothpaste-sized dollop of ink on your surface and roll it out. This is to make sure the brayer is evenly inked. Next, roll your plate and do a test print!

To test print, lay the paper on top of the plate and rub gently with your hand – but be sure to press evenly all over the paper. Lift a corner to be sure you are using adequate pressure. (see images below) After you make your test print, you can choose to let the ink dry on the plate, then continue to cut (making it easier to see the subtracted areas) or wash it off and keep going.

Advanced printers can do a reduction print. At this stage, print ALL of your cards once – take more away from your block, then print over the original print in a different color ink! (here is an interesting video clip on reduction printing) Have fun with it!

The printing steps are pictured below:

a dollop of ink!

roll it out!

ink it up!

lay the paper on top of the plate

rub the back of the paper with your hand evenly

pull up a corner to check the pressure and transfer

pull paper off the plate - if you are printing "for real" ink up and go again!

Happy Holidays!

~ MaryJo Rosania-Harvie is an art teacher in New Jersey Etsy Shop:

2 Responses to “Multi-Media Materials: Lino Print Your Holiday Cards!”

  1. bonniemacallister

    Very nice demo, Mary Jo!

  2. jeanne lombardo

    love this and can’t wait to try it!

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