Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lino Printing Basics

Lino printing is a subtractive process, meaning you cut away the areas you do not want to print. The remaining raised areas are inked with a roller (called a brayer) and a sheet of paper or fabric is placed over the inked lino block. The back of the paper is then either burnished (smoothed) by hand, with a baren tool or with the back of a spoon to evenly transfer the ink onto the paper.

The primary ingredient of lino (or linoleum) is linseed oil, plus other natural ingredients including resins, limestone, powdered cork and wood powder. Lino blocks have either a hessian back or are mounted on fibre-board to give a more sturdy surface to work on.

Lino Printing Blocks
Lino block with hessian backing (left) and fibre board backing

An alternative to lino are the Speedball Speedy-Carve Carving Blocks. These latex-free rubber blocks are easily carved with a lino cutter. They are also very flexible and can be bent around curved objects for printing onto flower pots or jars. The dense rubber also makes the cut blocks ideal for creating imprints on polymer or silver clay.

Carving Blocks from Speedball
Cut Speedy-Carve Blocks

Our Fact File page Block Printing with Speedball Speedy Stamps takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a two colour print using these rubber blocks. The same principles of this process apply to prints created with lino blocks.

The design is cut out of the block using a Lino cutter which consists of a handle and a choice of interchangeable blades.  Each blade provides a different depth or shape of cut.

Lino Cutting Tool
The Speedball Lino-zips Safety Cutter
Brayers for transferring ink onto lino blocks
Brayers in 2 widths
A brayer is used to apply ink evenly onto the block. Ink is squeezed onto an inking tray (a smooth surface such as a large ceramic tile is a good alternative) and the brayer is rolled across the ink until the entire roller is covered with a thin layer of ink.  The brayer is then rolled across the surface of the block to distribute the ink across the surface.

There are a number of methods for transferring the inked block to the surface of the paper or fabric.  Lightweight papers tend to print more easily than heavier weight papers although slightly dampening the surface of the paper will help with transfer.

A baren or burnisher for transferring ink from block to paper
Speedball Baren
The surface of the paper needs to be smoothed (burnished) against the block beneath to ensure all the ink prints onto the paper.  This can be done by hand (although it can be difficult to apply the correct pressure), with another tool called a baren or with the back of a spoon.  Placing a sheet of acetate or glassine may help to protect the surface of the paper and will also reduce friction.

In addition to the lino printing tools offered on the George Weil website we also offer a large selection of block printing inks.

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