As a printmaking process, linoleum block printing, also known as linocut, involves a relatively simple style of relief cutting. While linoleum cutting is similar to woodcut printing and is derived from it, linoleum is far softer than wood, resulting in a distinctive look that lends itself well to high-contrast designs. When creating a linoleum print design, negative areas are carved away, leaving a surface that is inked to create a mirror image of the block.
A veiner is a gouging tool for relief cutting, usually with a rounded wood handle and either a "U" or "V" shaped cutter. Veiners cut thick, deep lines into the linoleum that create larger relief spaces when the cuts are overlapped, as well as tapered lines.
The chisel is a linoleum carving tool that has a small, usually flat, metal tip and a narrow handle. Some chisels have blades, such as the wide bevelled edge of the skew chisel, while others have gouge tips. Linoleum print artists often use chisels for carving shapes and details.
Fine edged carving knives and utility knives are used to create very fine detail on the linoleum block. Knives used for block printing can have rounded edges, flat edges or sharp pointed tips and are often small, with a cutting edge of an inch or less.
The awl has a mushroom-shaped or narrow handle and a pointed tip that is used to create holes in the linoleum block. The sharp tip can also be used to mark the block without cutting it. Awls are used when the artist desires tiny dots in the design.
A parting tool resembles a veiner, with a much larger cutting surface. The blade may have a "V" or "U" shape, or it may resemble a large flat head screwdriver. Parting tools are used to create large, tapered lines and may be straight or bent.
All-in-One Lineoleum Cutter Sets
Some artists prefer a common type of linoleum cutting tool that has a hollow plastic handle that doubles as a container for several different cutter tips. The tips can be interchangeably attached for use. A basic linoleum cutter set includes "V" and "U" gouges in different sizes, and a flat blade tip.
An important tool for linoleum block printing that is not a cutter, the roller, also called a brayer, is used to apply ink to the finished linoleum block for printing. Rollers come in different sizes and are usually made of rubber with a metal handle.
An artist may use a barren to transfer the ink from the linoleum block to the paper. Barrens have a wide flat surface and a handle; the artist places the surface against the back of the linoleum block and applies pressure in a circular motion. Burnishing tools, pencils, large spoons or the artist's hands can also be used to apply pressure during the transfer.