How to Use Lino Cuts for Block Printing Fabric

Written by amy lyn
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How to Use Lino Cuts for Block Printing Fabric
Lino blocks can be used to paint clothing fabric. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

A lino cut is used to make a relief print. A design is cut into a block of linoleum and the raised image left behind creates a reverse, or mirror, image of the actual design when it is printed. Schools often use lino cuts to introduce children to printmaking, but they are also used by professionals to create intricate designs. You can use the technique not only on surfaces such as paper, but to print on fabric as well.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Plastic trash bag
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Prewashed and dried fabric or garment
  • Iron
  • Newspaper
  • Lino cut with handle
  • Fabric paint
  • Paint tray
  • Foam rubber roller

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  1. 1

    Cut open the plastic trash bag and cover the work area. Smooth it flat and tape to secure.

  2. 2

    Iron the piece of fabric or garment you are printing so it is flat with no wrinkles. Lay it over the plastic-covered area and tape it down on the very edge. If the fabric has a selvedge, use that as a taping guide.

  3. 3

    Lay some newspapers down at the sides of the fabric. You will use these for practice and to remove the excess paint from the lino cut before printing on the fabric.

  4. 4

    Pour some fabric paint into the paint tray. Roll the roller through the paint. Make sure the paint covers the roller evenly and the roller is not soaked so much that it is dripping.

  5. 5

    Coat the lino cut with paint by rolling it with the roller. Coat it evenly with a solid, but not excessive, amount of paint. You do not want the paint too thick, or your image will blur, nor do you want it too thin, as you won't be able to see the entire image.

  6. 6

    Practice printing a few times onto the newspaper. With a steady hand, press the lino cut straight down onto the newspaper.

  7. 7

    Press with the fingers of your free hand on the outside edges of the cut while still holding the lino cut in place. Do not rub, or the print will be smudged. After a few practice prints, you should know how much paint to load on the lino cut and how much pressure to apply to ensure it prints evenly.

  8. 8

    Start printing in one corner of the fabric. Roll paint onto the lino cut and press onto the fabric just as you practised on the paper. Keep your free hand on the fabric close to the lino cut as you lift it off the fabric.

  9. 9

    Apply more paint, position the lino cut so it aligns with the print you already made and press down as you did before. Continue rolling, aligning and pressing the lino cut until you have filled up the piece of fabric.

  10. 10

    Let the printed fabric dry and set according to the fabric paint manufacturer's instructions.

Tips and warnings

  • There's no need to print only on plain fabric. Use a fabric or garment with stripes or polka dots to further enhance the design.
  • If you overload the lino cut, remove excess ink by pressing gently onto the newspaper, then press it onto the fabric.
  • If you are printing a large area, wash the lino cut every so often to keep the paint from clogging the cut and blurring the design.

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