Lino printing is a type of block printing that involves creating a relief design on a piece of linoleum, or lino. Cutting and slicing into the lino gives the required design. You can then use this design to print on various surfaces, such as paper and fabric. Basic lino printing is simple and affordable, so it has been traditionally used as a fun supervised activity for older children in schools. Lino prints are also referred to as linocuts, due to the process employed to make the pictures.
Lino is an abbreviation of the word linoleum. In "A Technical Dictionary of Print Making," Andre Beguin describes a mixture of cork dust, linseed oil, gum and resin compressed onto jute cloth, which is used to make traditional linoleum for printing. You can buy lino in large, flat sheets to cut to size. It is usually easiest to start with a small, square tile for your first linocut.
Lino cutting tools consist of a range of sharp scoops and blades, usually with comfortable wooden handles. Lino is pliable but fairly hard, so you need precision tools to cut accurately. For linocuts, trace or draw a pattern or design directly on to the linoleum. You can use pencil for this but to avoid smudging a complicated design, draw over the pencil with Indian ink. It is best to start with a very simple design or pattern, just to get a feel for the process.
Cut and scoop away the sections of lino that you do not wish to print. The final shape or design standing in relief is the shape you will see printed on the paper. Areas that have been cut away will remain white. The correct cutting technique is to slice away from yourself. Steady the lino by holding it firmly behind the blade. When first cutting lino, your tool can easily slip due to the texture of the material, so it is very important to keep your hands out of the path of the blade by always placing them behind it.
Once you are happy with your design, it is ready to print. This involves inking the lino with a roller that spreads printing ink evenly over the surface. A hard roller ensures that ink is only applied to the positive parts of the linocut, and this is loaded with a fine layer of ink by rolling it on a separate piece of glass. Making the print is as simple as pressing the lino to your chosen surface, and then lifting it off cleanly.
Complicated lino prints utilise several colours and this involves washing and drying the lino between each colour application. The design can also be further cut in to at this stage, so that new colour is applied to certain areas, with the original colour left to show through in others. Although often associated with schools and basic craft techniques, lino printing has been practised by famous artists like Picasso and Matisse. British artist and illustrator Edward Bawden produced some of the most famous linocuts of the 20th century. These showed complicated techniques within lino printing, such as the use of many colours on a large scale and collage.