Fiona Horan

Beginning printmaking with lino

Having been printmaking using lino for some years now, I thought I would write an article about what tools and inks I’ve discovered, through trial and error, in case this is useful to beginners and interesting to more experienced practitioners.

What You Need to Get Started in Lino

Printmaker at work in a dedicated relief print studio
This is from East London Printmakers’ website. They do great classes and offer open access sessions at the studio.
Classes in Printmaking

A great way to get started in any form of printmaking is to join a class at a studio. Often you get to try etching, screenprint, aquatint, etc. as well as linocutting. Classes are available all round the country – either as adult education classes which use the print rooms of colleges and universities – or as courses run by independent print studios. I would especially recommend joining a class at a printmaking studio rather than a university or school if possible, because they are more likely to offer access to the studio facilities to you after the course.

I’ve found evening classes at colleges to be very enjoyable and well-taught – but once they are over, there is no opportunity to take things any further. Almost all the classes are beginners’ classes, and the print room can’t be used by adults in the evenings or weekends except during classes. They spend a lot of the year dark and locked up.

Independent print studios usually have open access sessions several days a week which can be booked in half day or hourly blocks. Once you’ve attended a course with them, they trust you with the equipment, and off you go. You may make friends amongst the artists that attend the studio, and, perhaps, exhibit with them. You’ll also be able to (discreetly) watch some great artists at work.

Basic equipment to begin with

Linocut is a form of relief printmaking. You carve a pattern in the lino, roll ink over it, and take an impression on paper (or cloth). The carved areas remain un-inked – so the effect is like a “negative” of the original drawing. This is the opposite of an etching – where the ink is rubbed into the etched/carved lines, and cleaned off the rest of the plate before printing with extreme pressure onto slightly moistened paper.

It is very useful to have access to a powerful press for linocutting. Hence the usefulness of classes and studio facilities as mentioned above. Print rooms will usually have a variety of presses, probably including some lovely old Victorian presses – perhaps an Albion press.

However – good news! You can get good results simply by rubbing the back of your prints with a spoon. That’s how I do mine. A lot of well-known printmakers do without a press, at least part of the time. Some of Edward Bawden’s prints were too big to put under a press. This didn’t stop him. Apparently he simply jumped up and down on them!

So, the minimal equipment needed to get started is:-

  • Lino (or similar)
  • Ink
  • Somewhere to roll the ink
  • Paper
  • Roller
  • Carving tools
  • Spoon

I will discuss these in more detail in the next blog.

Here is a link to East London Printmakers.