Lino Cutting – Carving out a new hobby

In 2018, one of my artsy friends, Shellie, and I started hanging out on the occassional Friday night to work on art projects for ourselves. I might work on a sewing project while she’d work on a drawing, or she’d cross-stitch while I did water colors. We’d invite other gals to join and I’d always offer for them to use my stock of art supplies to come up with a project if they didn’t have one – but they’d usually bring their own. We started calling this “Artsy Fartsy Fridays.”

It was on one of our first Artsy Fartsy Fridays when Shellie introduced me to the art of lino-cutting and I, in turn, introduced it to Paul. Lino-cutting (linoleum cutting) is the analog version of designing something digitally and having it be recreatable. For this, you find or create a drawing, trace it onto the substrate (optionally, with carbon paper), and then use various cutting tools to carve away the negative of the image. Depth and texture create subtlties and variation in the final print. Then you roll on the ink, which is very similar in texture to paint, and press it evenly against the medium of your final print. The printing technique is generally known as “relief printing” or “block printing.”

You don’t really need much to get started. It’s probably one of the less expensive of my hobby dabbles. (But nothing can beat the cost of Four-Leaf Clover Hunting!) You’ll want to borrow or purchase some supplies to try it out:

  • Carving block – This is the medium to carve your relief into; there are various consistencies of blocks – from super soft and flexible to more rigid and potentially mounted onto a hard flat surface.
  • Carving tools – Various blades are used to achieve different carving effects
  • Brayer – Used to spread the ink onto your carved block
  • Baren – Used to smoothly press your carved block against the receiving medium
  • Ink – The ink you use will depend on the medium on which you’re printing
  • Carbon Paper (optional) – Used to transfer an image if you don’t want to draw one directly on the block. This is particularly useful when your image contains words that will need to be reversed on the block.
  • Paper or Fabric – The medium upon which you’ll print your design

If you want to be sure that you have everything you need, you might consider purchasing an affordable kit so you don’t have to learn about all the individual tools just to get started. Happy printing!

Pro Tip: Always mirror text on your block!

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