Absolute Basics

Updated: May 10

'What do you need to start printing?' I often get asked this question. To be honest you need your hands and a bit of mud or a potato and some paint! I've written about that before though in some old blogs from the days when I worked with children. They are still good printing methods but people are asking about linocutting obviously, because that's what I do.


So here's very basic list


  • Cutting tools

  • Lino

  • a roller

  • ink

  • paper


That is it. I wouldn't go buying anything else until you know if this is a thing you love, or you'll end up spending oodles. See what you use, see what you like, experiment and then expand on that.


Cutting Tools

I began with a set of Japanese wood cutting tools which at the time cost less than a tenner. They are like a pencil, no big handles

Then my lovely sister (Artist Kate Willows - check her out) bought me two Pfeil tools as a present. I really couldn't get on with them at first but have perservered and now I love them. I added one more and that's all I use. Don't think you need to buy a massive set at vast expense, start small and build up if you need to.

Here's the wonderful Linocut Boy, showing you some techniques Cutting Video





Lino

There's lino and there's allsorts of other stuff! Pink, blue, grey, white, double sided, bendy, shiny, rubbery and some horrible crumbly stuff which I will never use again!


Proper battleship grey lino is hessian backed and made from Linseed Oil and Sawdust (and can apparently go in your compost bin!) It can go off if stored for a very long time and should generally be supple and bendy. If you are in a cold place it may need a little warming up. I use a hairdrier, or I just sit on it for a while. No, I really do! If it crumbles as you cut, it is old and will be really hard work and quite frustrating.

It's easy to draw on and to transfer and image on with carbon paper too.

To clean up you need to be careful not to get the hessian wet or it will shrink.


Japanese vinyl. This is usually green on one side and blue on the other with a black interior. I find it a bit shiny to use but many people love it.


Softcut is white and a bit rubbery but great to cut if lino is a bit hard work. It's easier on your hands and easy to wash. You can draw straight onto it but I haven't had a lot of luck with carbon paper.


Soft lino sheets - these are not lino but some kind of polymer. I quite like this and tend to use just this and real lino.

It's not the easiest thing to transfer an image onto with carbon paper - I've tried white carbon too. But if you're happy drawing stright onto the surface with Sharpie or pencil it's great. Very easy to clean up too.


I'm not even going to mention the pale blue and pink ones, but do give them a try if you fancy. Just don't buy loads...


Here's Holly from Handprinted explaining all in a video


Rollers

These come in allsorts of hardnesses which to be honest don't seem to make a huge difference to what I print. I think that for more refined styles the hardness may be key. The rollers are generally rubber with plastic or wooden handles. My husband made me a lovely hanging shelf for mine. They are better hanging rather than sat as they don't get marked. Marks won't pick up any ink.





Ink

I use Caligo Cranfield Safewash. I started with one tube of black. I then bought allsorts of colours, some of which I don't even use! Don't get carried away. Start just with black and see how you get on. Caligo is easy to clean either under a running tap with some washing up liquid, or a rag and some baby oil or veg oil.

You'll also need somewhere to roll the ink. An old fridge shelf or glass chopping board works well.





Paper

I used copier paper to begin with, just to seen how my marks looked when printed. There are reasonable pads of paper online. If you don't have a press, like me, you'll want thinner papers that are easier to hand burnish. Hosho is a nice weight, print on the shiny side. I just use my hands to burnish but people use wooden spoons, special barrens, paperweights, smooth stones and allsorts.


There are many online tutorials, groups on social media and local printers offering workshops. Or you can just have a go, BUT remember the tools are sharp, always use your common sense, trust your gut instinct and cut away from your hands and body.

Have fun!


Suppliers

Handprinted - easy to navigate site, they're happy to answer questions and also write very helpful blogs

Jacksons - a vast art supply shop with everything you could possibly need






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