Linocut Block Printing For Beginners | David Miller | Skillshare
Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
7 Lessons (22m)
    • 1. Introduction to Linocut

    • 2. Linocut Tools

    • 3. The First Block

    • 4. Creating An Inverse

    • 5. Ink

    • 6. The First Print

    • 7. Linocut Wrap Up

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Linocut is a relief printmaking process that's accessible and easy to learn in a way that other printmaking techniques, such as silkscreen, are not.  With a few simple tools and an understanding of positive and negative shapes, one can make bold pop art designs that can be printed over and over with no decline in quality.  I'll take you through every step of creating our first linoleum block print, then do an example of a more complex print with multiple layers.  See you in class! 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Cloud all... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Your creative journey starts here.

  • Unlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare’s app

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.



1. Introduction to Linocut: Hello there. I'm David Miller, multimedia artist in Phoenix. Want to welcome you to this course? Linoleum block printing. Call it linear cut. It's a form of relief. Printing linoleum is something that has been around since the late 18 hundreds, and artist started using it in the early 19 hundreds to do block printing. Uh, it's an easier surface to carve into than wood. It's a little bit tougher and harder than rubber. So right in between there. Generally, the process involves you carvings, linoleum, laying a piece of paper on to sum it up. The process involves making your carving in this flat linoleum surface. You think it Leeson paper on top for tight contact. Pull the paper off and you have a print. Now. I just told you how to do it in 20 seconds or less, but there's a lot of find details. There are a lot of ways we can do things a little more clever and interesting than what I just summarized for you. With that out of the way, let's begin 2. Linocut Tools: so we have our linoleum blocks. Here they come in a variety of sizes. You got little guys to buy three that are essentially stamp sized, five by eight really big ones. And it's good that they come in a variety of sizes because this way, you can mix and match things that go on your final winner Cut prints. For example, if I wanted to create a little cut print that was justified by eight size, but I wanted to have, ah, smaller element like an animal in it that's not going to take up this whole amount of space . I cut my background here, and then I cut my animal on this small block and they'll merge into the final print that way. And I'm not wasting money buying blocks that I'm really gonna cut small sections out of. This is the carving tool. This is by speedball, and it has a few different carvers in it. You unscrew the ends and you can pluck things out right here. They are sharp, so, you know, it's kind of like working with anything super sharp. You want to make sure that your surface doesn't slide around. They do sell pads that have friction, and you can place your block on top of that when you're carving on a table. Usually I carve larger blocks so they're less likely to slide around. But these little guys you really gotta watch out for. If you're holding a block in your hand and the carving tool, it doesn't take much for this thing slide and the carving tool to potentially hit you in the hand. You gotta be really careful about that, so I'll go ahead and put all my carving tools in the back here, keep them nice and safe. One of the ways that you can make life easier for yourself is to warm up the linoleum block before you carve it, and you can just warm it up in the oven for like five minutes on two degrees. Whatever it makes this softer, that's gonna help you with this carving tool. Otherwise, it's not that difficult process, and we'll see some of that in the few minutes for doing your initial designs. You certainly can just go right on to the block with a pen or a Sharpie or a pencil and car from there. But if you want to create something based off of a design, and you created a computer photograph, some other kind of reference material. You'll probably want to hook yourself up with this graphite paper, and this is something that when I was very young and people that typewriters, we utilize these a lot to make duplicates carbon duplicates of things that you typed or drew on. But all it is is this thin material. You place it on top of your linoleum block, you take whatever you feel like transferring onto it. You can use a pen or any other kind of hard object. Draw directly on your paper, and this transfers that image onto your block. I'm making you look really easy, and it is really easy to transfer something. But the overall design of your block is the thing you need to pay attention to, because this is going to be what most printmaking is. It's either got anchor. It doesn't have ink. It's an either or situation. So you look at a photograph like this that I pulled from a magazine, and there's all kinds of colors, all kinds of tonalities. What is getting what color you know? Is it everything that's kind of dark, like her clothes and her eyebrows and her eyelashes, her eyes and her hair. Is that all going to be one color and my going for multiple blocks? This is a layered design element that if you're used to just working with photography, if you used to just working with regular pencil drawing, you have to think a little bit differently than working with those tools. So later on, I'll show you how I designed that kind of stuff in a computer, using photo shop and other kinds of tools. For very, very basic printmaking, though, we're just going to draw straight on suit blocks and designed from there, So let's get started. 3. The First Block: Okay, guys, I'm gonna do to three by four blocks. So two colors Good place to start Is something with a skull in it. As a lot of my art has kind of noirish horror vibes to it. Whenever you learn a new skill, it's good to practice with, ah, kind of art or subject matter that you're familiar with. So you're not overthinking what you're going to do? I'm drawn skulls. Since I was maybe, like, five years old. I always liked him in art, and a lot of my drawing is contour style. That's why I'm not picking up my marker. It would be good to have some detached teeth. I know for this one, I'm gonna leave these areas and these areas I am going to carve out I'm putting exes because that's reminding me what's getting carved kind of like in illustration comics. If somebody pencils out a page and they know what area is gonna be black, they don't need to fill it in completely black. On the initial artwork, they just put exes, and that lets the colorist or the printer know that that is the area that has no color to it. Now that I have my 1st 1 I can do the carving, and then I can scamp that onto my 2nd 1 and that will let me know where exactly this skull fits in reference to whatever I put on the second block. When you put your tool and make sure it's nice and tight anything, Luso fall apart. Maybe cut into the wrong part of your linoleum or cut into you neither of which you want to have happen. The first tool to use is the one that's gonna take out the largest amount of linoleum, and you can worry about the details getting, you know in between these teeth, for example. Ah, little bit later. For now, I just want to take out large chunks, and you don't have to cut very deep because ultimately you're going to roll this with ink and it's on Lee going to hit the uppermost surface. I don't need to cut all the way down to this court board material. As with anything you do with the sharp object, make sure that you're carving away from you, not towards your hand or towards your body. Also, make sure when you're carving, say, I have to go this direction. I've got a part that I don't want to carve their. So fetter too have it away from me. Just in case I get overzealous and cut into something that I don't want to cut. Once you taking care of the big stuff, you could switch to a smaller gouge on your cutting tool. This is gonna get the details that are close to the lines of drawing. Also in certain sections where I have just drawn a line in such as around his teeth. I'm going to gouge out those areas because, of course, just printing the block with my marker on is not going to actually place those details on the final piece. I need to make sure I get in there with small gouge. 4. Creating An Inverse: So I have my preliminary carving of the skull and I'm ready to print. If this is the only thing I want to print, I tend to like to work in layers, and I am going to create another little cut print that goes around the skull and has a little bit of texture to it. So there will be a contrast. It'll be a two color print if you are going. Teoh, do this yourself. There's a little bit of planning involved when you want to work with layers. In the case of my skull says I drew it directly onto the block, cut it on the block. Never had another drawing to reference. I'm going to do a quick rubbing with a piece of printer paper, and that printer paper will have an impression of the skull on it. Uh, I just need to align this paper to a new little block, something that's the same size as my original. So the alignment is correct, and then I'm going to use my carbon paper and a pen to transfer the basics of my skull onto this new block. So when I cut that one, I get the inverse of my skull. I'm going toe have everything that is the skull cut out of this block rather than leave the skull on it. If you were planning this ahead of time, ways that you could create layers could involve designing your artwork in something like Photoshopped or procreate. Thes are applications that utilize layers inherently. You can draw original artwork on a single piece of paper and then utilise the carbon paper to transfer it onto various linoleum blocks. But designate different areas as what's going to be in color and what's not. You can have an original art piece that has your various color shapes, tonalities on it and then simply trace certain areas of that artwork on two different sheets of paper that you transfer onto your linoleum block. And this is similar to the method of color separation that printers use. So there's a variety of ways of transferring layers of art on two different blocks that you will then a line for your final print. When I carved the inverse of this skull, I decided Teoh Makesem textured marks in the areas around it looks a little bit like rain, but the reason for that is, I have subscribed to the philosophy that one of the things that's engaging about artwork is seeing different kinds of mark making. So this could be variable line with this could be marks that are made with one type of tool versus another kind of tool, by the idea is that it's more visually engaging for the viewer toe have multiple kinds of marks within whatever peace it is you're doing, whether it's a comic illustration, a painting, linear cut prince so on and so forth. 5. Ink: Now we'll talk about think for a moment. There is Inc that is specified for block printing. It's not a good idea to just slap on acrylic paint or something onto these blocks because the viscosity is different. Acrylic paint, for example, is very thick. If you try to use this process like you would a stamp with acrylic paint. Ah, you're just going to end up with big, blotchy bits of paint all over the place. So I am utilising block printing ink this Brandis speedball. It's the easiest to find. In my estimation. I'm also including two mediums that I'm mixing in with my ink. One is an ink extender, and the other isn't Inc retarded. Er, so the retard er stops the ink from drying out so fast, and the extender sort of boost the amount of color that you're going to get out of your ink bottle. You don't have to use a lot of ink when you think your little block, but because it is very thin, it will dry super quickly, and I recommend using water soluble inks not for the kind of print and create, but the cleaning process of your blocks. If you utilize on oil based ink, it's a little more difficult to clean, a little more toxic for the environment. So you have the option between oil based inks and water soluble inks. I'm recommending using water soluble inks and mixing in these mediums to get the most out of your ink purchase. 6. The First Print: so no ready to ink are blocks, and my blocks are small enough that I can utilise them as stamps or I can have them flat on their back and put the paper on top. When you're working with much larger blocks, you're pretty much going Teoh, have them stationary flat on their back and place the paper on top of them. The paper that I'm printing onto is a smooth Bristol paper. There's a lot of printmaking papers out there that are more ideal for any of this kind of work, things that have, like cotton based to them that are more absorbent. But I'm going to use Bristol because much like the speedball block printing inks, it's a really common product, easy to find and good when we are doing our preliminary prints with this material. One of the beautiful things about block printing, of course, is that once you have the blocks, you can make as many additions as you want. That block is not going to get worn out unless you leave the block somewhere where it will get destroyed over time, like in your backyard. I'm going to put my ink on this Styrofoam paper plate and mix in some of the retired er and the extender. I'm gonna mix it with a little stick. It's kind of up to you. What you mix it with don't have to go out and find the specific stick. Of course them to roll my Breyer until the Breyer is charged with ink. Go ahead and ink my block. Make sure the ink is hitting all the areas in this example. I am over inking it, and you're going to see the results of what happens when you have too much ink on the block . It's going to create this sort of webbed Inc texture when you pull your print off and he's not gonna look very good. I'm matching the corners of my paper with the block so I can try and achieve some form of registration. When I do my next print, this paper is not cut to size. I can cut it to size after the fact, but you are welcome to cut everything down to the size. You need it if you're going to mix different size blocks, that's a much more complicated process than if you're working with two blocks that are the same as I am with my skull and my inverse of the skull. So I printed two of the skulls and I'm going to go ahead and get a different ink. I'm gonna try and mix colors so I can get a little bit of a Grady Int something that isn't so flat looking all the way across, and I'll go ahead and print two of my backgrounds. The reason why I'm doing this for this tutorial is because I want to see what it looks like . If I print the inverse first, then the skull and what it looks like when I print the skull first, then the inverse. And what I discovered in this process is that one my inverse is cut too tight. There's too much space that easily overlapped with skull. So in the two prints, I did where the skull came first, then the inverse. It kind of barged in and the skulls territory in a way that I'm not really happy with. Some people might find this pretty cool, but my original concept involved, they're being a little more space around the skull. Little more separation between the skull and its inverse. When I stamped the skull onto the areas where the inverse was. I was able to tell that I needed to shift it over just a little bit to get it within that pocket within that blank space within my composition. And I'm a lot happier with how these turned out. Luckily for future prints, it's an easy fix for me to cut a little more space on the inverse so the skull can rest more comfortably. I also need to make some adjustments in my registration. How I have that paper's lined up when I'm making more than one print. Now, if you work in linen cut over time, you're gonna build up a library of images of blocks that you have. And one of the cool things about having this library is you can mix and match them. So I'm using a flower that my wife created for on addition of cards she made. And then I have my skull print, and I'm able to duplicate the flowers as many times as they need to. I'm able to duplicate the skulls as many times as I need to to create their own composition , and I'm even able to double up the inks. In the case of some of these flowers, I'm going to put a different color right on top of the previous print. I'm not really worried in this particular instance about registration matching. Exactly. In fact, having them off registration means that I'm gonna have part of the Plan B one shade part of the plant. Be another shade. I think that's pretty cool approach. In the case of the skull, my initial print wasn't great, so I went ahead, Inc. The skull again with a different color over late it to get this doubling effect. The fact that you can do a duplicate print with off registration is actually one of my favorite things about the print making process. And the most famous printmaker of the 20th century, Andy Warhol utilize this technique a lot to get this unique vibration that really brought the image to life Very rarely. It used black in my printmaking now because I find that black deadens the composition. Also, if you're working with printmaking colors, you can purchase some really pop art colors that leap off the page, and when they mix side by side on a print or in the case of or in the case of rolling the inks out, you can get some pretty fascinating Grady INTs and marbling effects when you do it correctly. 7. Linocut Wrap Up: guys, Thanks for sticking through the linoleum block printing course. This is a process that I find very meditative, very relaxing, and the only real dangerous part. Watch yourself around. There was cutting tools once you have your block or your seven blocks, if you take care of these guys, you can print stuff 10 years from now. Just a swell as you print them today. Try not to store them outside. Any sort of heat or extreme cold will warp your linoleum block. And then it's not gonna be a flat surface, and there is a whole lot you could do with that. And consider if you made a bunch of little ah little cut prints that were just elements that you used in a larger composition, maybe you could take those at remix them. You know you have flowers that you used. For one thing, you can use those flowers. And another thing. There's a lot more than you can do besides making a single carving, making a few prints off of it. Calling it done. I think whenever you think big and you try to push yourself with new things, you're gonna get new ideas on top of those new ideas, and that's how you end up making great work. Ultimately, once again, thanks for your time. Check out the rest of my tutorials. Got a whole lot on visual art, the Adobe creative suite, sound editing, video editing ways that you can progress as a creative human being. Talk to you next time.