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Ministry of Craft Blog

    Friday, April 21, 2017

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    Lino Printing by Nell Smith


    Lino Printing by Nell Smith

    I love lino printing as it’s such an accessible technique. It’s cheap and easy to get set up, and can be quite addictive when you get going! The basic set up is: lino, tools for cutting, a roller, ink, paper and a wooden spoon or clean roller to print with. There are lots of different kinds of cutters and ink to choose from. We always use safety cutters and water based block printing ink in our courses, to protect from injuries and for ease of cleaning up! Fred Aldous stocks all the supplies you will need.

    My top tips for lino printing are: work in black and white and block shapes rather than line drawings, as they can be confusing to work from. Keep it simple when you’re starting out!

    Don’t forget to reverse your images - especially important when working with lettering!

    Thin, strong paper works best when printing by hand. Japanese papers are lovely, but expensive. Printer paper is ideal for test prints and beginners.


    Project - print your initial!

    Draw around your lino block to make sure your design will fit.


    Sketch out your initial in pencil, then work out your design in black ink. You can work back into the black ink with white pencil or acrylic paint. Don’t worry if your letter is a bit wobbly, the wobbles will either get worked out when you cut the block, or enhance the look of your print!


    When you are happy with your design, trace it, flip the tracing paper over so it’s pencil-side down, and transfer onto your lino block by rubbing over the lines.


    Start to carve the block, always cutting away from your fingers. Take your time, and don’t try to carve too deeply, you don’t need to gouge right down to the backing. You can check your progress by taking a quick pencil rubbing.

    Once you’re happy with the block, squeeze a small, grape sized blob of ink onto a smooth surface, such as perspex. Dip your roller into your ink reservoir and roll out a square onto your inking surface to get a smooth, even layer of ink onto the roller. You usually need less ink than you think, and it is better to build up thin layers of ink, rather than losing definition in your print by using too much. Once the roller is evenly coated in ink, roll it onto your block, making sure all the raised parts of the block are covered in ink.


    Lay your paper on top of the block, being careful not to move it, gently pressing the paper down to help it stick to the ink. Use either the back of a wooden spoon or a clean roller to rub over the whole area to be printed, using firm pressure. You should start to see the image appearing.

    Lift the paper off the block by peeling it back from the corner. Your print is ready!


    Nell is an award-winning designer producing fresh, modern prints and embroideries from her studio at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Northern Quarter. Since graduating from a Masters in Textiles in 2008, Nell has developed products including garments, accessories and homewares. Her range of organic babywear, decorated with retro-inspired animal prints, has become a firm favourite with customers.


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