The Artfinder Blog

Inside the Art of Linocut Printmaking

Here at Artfinder we’re fascinated by printmaking techniques both traditional and contemporary, and this week we’re focusing on linocut printing, a form of printmaking that first emerged in the early 20th century.

A History of Linocut Printmaking

Linoleum - the principal medium in linocut printing - was invented as a floor covering in the late 1800s and gained popular use as a printmaking material shortly after.

Linoleum was first used in Germany in the early 1900s for making patterns on wallpaper, and became widely used amongst the German Expressionist and Russian Constructivist movements at the same time. It became popular amongst woodcut printmakers as a less expensive option and - owing to its softer, non grainy texture and ease of use - it subsequently gained widespread use in printing schools.

Alexandra Buckle carving her linoleum block

Artists with huge acclaim such as Picasso and Matisse began using linoleum for printmaking in the 1950s, and so its popularity grew and is today considered one of the most enjoyable printmaking techniques.

How a Linocut is Made

Linocut printing is a form of relief printing - and therefore belongs to the same printing family as woodcut and metal block printing. Relief printing is ‘subtractive’ in nature, since the artist must cut away at the material to create a raised design.

Catriona Black carving her lino

Luna North preparing the lino

After first mounting a layer of linoleum on a piece of wood, the printmaker then carves a design out of the linoleum using a handheld gouger; the remaining raised areas correspond to the design in the final print. The sheet is then covered with ink using a roller and pressed onto a piece of paper or fabric by hand or using a press. This transfers the design of the inked lino onto the paper, creating the final print. As you’ll see from many lincout printmakers today, multi-colour linocuts can be achieved through the re-use and re-inking of a block or by using multiple blocks for each colour.

Louise Stebbing rolling ink on her prepared lino block

Alexandra Buckle revealing her print

Unlike woodcut printing, linoleum doesn’t have the same grainy texture as a wood block. This not only makes it much easier to cut but also gives the resulting print a smoother, softer, and more controlled surface. Strong contrasts of white against colour can be created, which results in very bold, graphic and striking prints. Beautiful!

"Evening Primrose at Brancaster" by Kate Heiss

Do you practice linocut printmaking or do you collect linocuts?

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