What tools and equipment do you need to make a linocut print?

Updated: Jul 9

When I run my linocut workshops I often get asked where I buy my printmaking supplies from. Below are details of the tools I use on my beginners linocut workshops and as professional artist. Links to suppliers are at the bottom of the page.


I mainly cycle over to Hawthorn Printmaking supplies in Murton, just outside York. They're a lovely family run company and are always extremely helpful with advice. They make their own presses and Barry, an ex chemist, makes all their inks. I love learning about how things are made, so it's never a quick visit once we get chatting.



10 essential tools for linocut printing for beginners

A starter kit of linocut materials and tools for beginners

Everything you need to start making your very own hand-carved and hand printed lino prints.


A starter kit of linocut materials and tools for beginners:


  1. Lino cutting tools: A good beginner set is the Essdee lino cutters and handle set with 5 lino cutters.

  2. Softcut lino: Essdee Softcut lino comes in various pack sizes

  3. Glass slab: I use glass kitchen workshop savers

  4. Ink roller or brayer: These Essdee rollers or similar.

  5. Printing ink: If you are making linocut prints at home I recommend using inks such as Speedball block printing inks

  6. Smooth cartridge paper

  7. Wooden spoon: For hand burnishing the inked up lino block onto the paper.

  8. Tracing paper

  9. Pencils, pens and rubber

  10. Photocopy paper: For drawing and printing proofs or test prints


Which type of lino is best for linocut printing?


Traditional grey lino

I now use traditional hessian backed grey linoleum. Some people call it 'battleship' lino. Traditional lino is made from linseed oil, pine resin and cork dust. It's harder to carve with cheaper cutters.


Soft cut or easy carve lino

When I first started teaching myself linocutting I used soft cut lino. When I teach linocut workshops in my York studio I use soft cut lino or easy carve lino. This is made from plastic. As the name implies it is softer to cut so better for cheaper beginners tools.


What are the differences between traditional grey lino and easy carve lino?


Traditional grey lino

Pros: The end of a carving line snaps off meaning you can create different lines and marks easier.

Cons: Harder to carve. Goes brittle over time and needs to be used fresh. I would recommend using professional lino cutting tool.


Soft cut or easy carve lino

Pros: Easy to carve. You can cut shapes out of the lino easily. Easy to use with beginners lino cutting tools.

Cons: You need to ensure that you carve up slightly at the end to ensure the scrap lino is cut away. It will distort in an etching press. It's plastic.


Read a blog that explains about the different type of lino on the Handprinted website blog here.


What are the best lino cutting tools?


Beginner lino cutting tools

As a beginner Essdee tools are good to start with as they are cheap to buy. The down side is that they can not be sharpened and are harder to use on traditional grey lino.


Professional lino cutting tools

I use Pfeil lino cutting tools. I bought the LSC set which I love and I use all of them. The best present you could ask for! Really worth the investment.


The images below are my LSC Pfeil tools

From left to right they are L 8/7, L 8/3, L 9/2, L 12/4, L 15/2, L 11/0.5.

L 8/7, L 8/3, L 9/2 are U-shaped. L 12/4, L 15/2, L 11/0.5 are V-shaped


I tend to use V-shaped gauges L 12/4 and L 15/2 for most of my carved lines as I like the organic variation in line you get with a V shaped tool. I use L 11/0.5 for fine details. I use U-shaped gauges L 8/3 and L 9/2 for clearing smaller details. L 8/7 I use for clearing large areas.

Pfeil linocutting tools LSC set. From left to right they are L 8/7, L 8/3, L 9/2, L 12/4, L 15/2, L 11/0.5

Pfeil linocut tools - LSC set

How to Sharpen Linocutting Tools

There are various methods to sharpening your tools. The best way is to maintain the edge by stropping or honing your tools each time you use them.


If your lino cutting tools have become blunt over time. Lawerence art supplies offer a sharpening and regrinding service. If you know of anyone in Yorkshire that also offers this service I’d love to know.


Note: Entry level Essdee type tools can not be sharpened.


How to use Flexicut SlipStrop

The Flexicut Slipstrop is used of stropping or honing your linocutting tools. It’s a method to maintain a sharp edge on your tool by polishing and deburring the edge. I bought mine from Handprinted.co.uk


This is a useful Tube video demonstrating how to use the Flexicut SlipStrop. Watch half way through for sharpening your v and u sharped lino tools and gouges.


Sharpening carving Tools with Flexicut SlipStrop


Regrinding and sharpening your linocutting tools

I'm quite adept at DIY etc but sharpening such fine tools is quite an art. If your tried tools have become too blunt I woud recommend getting them sharpened professionally.


Lawrence art supplies offer a linocut tools sharpening and regrinding service.



What are the best printing inks for linocut printing?


Oil based Inks

I use Hawthorn Printmakers Stay Open oil-based inks.

The inks are semi transparent which means the colours can be layered to create other colours. They also have a luminosity and depth to them which I love.

Hawthorn's also do opaque inks for relief printing. The finished effect is a lot like those used in screen printing.


Water based inks

They are quick to dry and easy to clean up with water, so ideal if you don't have a studio and are printing on your kitchen table.


For beginners I recommend using a mid level ink. Very cheap inks

can result in patchy coverage.


I use Speedball block printing inks for test printing graphic design and commission work. In my online courses I have used Lucas water soluble block printing ink.



What are the best rollers or brayers for linocut printing?


I use Hawthorn Printmakers 'student' rollers. I have the 6" and 3' rollers.

Essdee rollers are good to start with. I use these for quick test prints with water based inks.



How to print a linocut print


Printing Press

This is my Hawthorn Etching Press. I have the 405 model that will print up to A3.


An etching press is a machine with two metal rollers. A flat press bed slides between the two rollers under pressure. I call it my glorified mangle. Obviously it's a lot more refined than that!



Wooden spoon

Before I could afford my etching press I used my trustee wooden spoon, with lots of rubbing and elbow grease!

I still use it for cut out designs that would move and shift in my etching press. For example a print like this, using easy carve lino.


Resources


Hawthorn Printmaking Supplies (Based in York (ring first) and online)

York based family company where I buy most of my supplies:


  • I have one of their etching presses.

  • I use their transparent oil based stay open inks.

  • The main rollers I use are ‘student’ rollers, 6” and 3”.

  • Beginners linocutting tools and materials

  • Traditional grey lino

  • Essdee Softcut lino

  • Essdee lino cutters and rollers or brayers

Handprinted UK (Online)

Specialist printmaking supplies.

Where I buy my Ternes Burton Registration Pins from.

Lucas water soluble block printing ink.

Jackson’s Arts Supplies (Shop in London and online)

Paper, printmaking and art supplies.

Where I bought my Pfeil lino cutting tools from.

Intaglio Printmakers (Shop in London and online)

Specialist printmaking supplies.

They sell professional inks such as Caligo Safewash inks, which are water soluble.

Blossom Street Gallery (Shop in York)

Water based printing inks and Essdee tools.

Fred Aldos (Shops in Leeds, Manchester and online)

They sell things like cheaper beginners equipment for printmaking such as:

  • Essdee Softcut lino

  • Essdee linocutters and rollers or brayers

  • Speedball water soluble block printing inks.

Where can I buy linocut tools and materials in York?

In York Hawthorn Printmaking Supplies sell linocut tools and Soft Cut lino. Blossom Street Gallery sell water based printing inks and Essdee tools. I’m sure both will be able to deliver by post and possibly drop orders off in York.

Where can I buy linocut tools and materials online?

You can buy lino printing kits & supplies online at Hawthorn Printmaking Supplies, Handprinted UK, Fred Aldous and Jackson’s Arts Supplies as well as other online art shops.


Where can I buy lino printing kits online?

These are a few links to lino printing kits and block printing kits. They contain everything you need to start making your very own hand carved and hand printed lino prints.


I hope that helps get you started. If you need any more hints and tips get in touch.


You may also find this blog useful:


Printmaking and Linocut Print Books

Find out more about my favourite printmaking books and magazines in my ‘Printmaking and Linocut Print Books’ blog.

Michelle

Online courses - Learn how to make a linocut print for beginners

Learn how to create a simple one colour linocut print, using softcut lino and water-based inks at home. Learn how to carve a variety of mark making techniques using linocut tools and print your design by hand. Find out more about my online courses here.


Linocut workshops

My linocut workshops are all held in my York print studio. I teach in small groups of no more than four people, so that everyone gets lots of one to one tuition.

Find out more about my linocut workshops and dates here.


Looking for a private workshop experience for you and your friends?

If you'd like to book a creative day for a special occasion for 4 people get in touch.


About the author

Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.


Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour.


Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.

#linocut

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