What is a Linocut?

Linocuts are a type of block print in which the relief surface is linoleum. Linocuts, especially when created skilled artists, can have a striking level of depth and detail, and a number of artists work in this medium. Linocuts are simple to make, which appeals to some artists, particularly those who are just getting started with block printing. Linocuts are frequently displayed in art galleries, and they are also frequently used to decorate homes and offices.

A piece of linoleum is carefully cut away to create a desired design when a linocut is made. The design is then imprinted inking the linoleum and pressing it against a piece of paper or fabric. Because a linocut is essentially a large stamp, the image appears backwards after printing, so artists must think backwards while carving the design, especially if it includes text.

Although it is not required, artists sometimes mount the linoleum to a block of wood to make it more sturdy and stable. Linocuts can be made either laying the linoleum in the bed of a press and printing it, or applying the linoleum directly to the surface to be printed. Direct printing requires very few supplies, which can be very convenient.

Linocuts can be colored, just like regular woodcuts, using a different block for each color or carving away at the relief surface between inkings to change which parts are inked. Linoleum can be used to create pieces with a high level of crisp detail without fear of cracking or splitting because it is so easy to carve. Linoleum, on the other hand, degrades quickly, so artists should consider how many prints they want before using it, as the linoleum will begin to compress out of shape after a certain point.

Many art centers and colleges teach this printmaking technique, and it’s a fun way to get started with block printing. Linoleum, a pencil for sketching, a carving knife, ink, and a roller known as a brayer are all you need to make basic linocuts. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can start experimenting with color and other artistic tools to improve your linocuts.