Beginner's Guide to Linocuts - Create Your First Print | Jeslyn Sebold | Skillshare

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Beginner's Guide to Linocuts - Create Your First Print

teacher avatar Jeslyn Sebold

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Inspiration and Sketches


    • 3.

      Basic Supply List


    • 4.

      Transferring Your Image to the Block


    • 5.

      Carving Tips and Techniques


    • 6.

      Proofing Your Print


    • 7.

      Pulling Prints


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

The first in a series of classes centered around learning different techniques for linocut printing and how to apply them in multiple ways.

This class will focus on introducing creatives to relief printing and how creative businesses can take advantage of using prints to create a variety of designs and products. In this class, you will discover:

--What basic, inexpensive supplies are needed for creating your first linocut

--How to successfully design an image for printing

--Different methods for transferring an image onto a linoleum block

--Carving linocut

--Printing linocut

By the end of this class, you will have developed the skills to create and print a single color image that can be used in many different ways.   

Meet Your Teacher


Hi there! I'm Jeslyn, an independent illustrator from Florida. I love to create whimsical artwork that captures emotion. My work is characterized by multiple layers of color and texture.


I am passionate about incorporate printmaking techniques into all of my work. It helps me create those layers of texture and detail all while giving me the space to experiment.  If you'd like to some of my work, check out my website at


In my classes, I will be sharing the basic techniques for pulling prints and what to do with them so you can use them as building blocks to incorporate into your own artwork.


I am looking forward to getting to know you and helping you on your journey to becoming a... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hey guys, my name is Jocelyn, I am a freelance illustrator and print maker. I've been pulling black prints for over 10 years now. It's a technique that I learned when I was in college studying abroad, and it's something that I really love to do, I'm really excited to share it with you. This is a great class for beginners or for people who were looking for a refresher, because I'm going to walk you through the entire process, the supplies you need, transferring my drawing onto the block, and then carving and printing. We're going to go over everything step-by-step, and I've broken it all down into different videos so it's in really easy digestible chunks. Hopefully by the time we're done, you will have something that you can take away and use for your signature or an icon, or something to create a pattern. Join me in the next class, I'm really looking forward to working with you. 2. Inspiration and Sketches: Now that you have decided, "Hey, I'm going to do this thing. I'm going to pull print, " cool. Where do you start? Here's how I like to get started. I will start with a page of sketches in my sketchbook. This is my sketchbook. It's just honestly a cheap sketchbook that I got from an art supply store and then I painted the front of it. But anyways, I will open up to a fresh page and then I set a timer. You can set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour and give yourself a word to play around with. The word that I'm going to choose will be beetle. I've wanted to do a beetle for a really long time. The next thing I do after I set my timer is I scroll through Pinterest, through Google image,. I'm old school and I do keep some magazines around, so if I have any magazine pictures, I'll pull those out and use those as inspiration as well. This is one of those areas where you can paste pictures in, you can draw with a pencil, you can paint, whatever is comfortable for you, do it. But when your timer goes off, you're done. Research phase complete. I am going to put some music on in the background and speed these as bad boys. When I am sketching for a print I'm already thinking about how I might want to curve it, how I might want to arrange the blocks of color because this is one thing, especially when you first get started with printing, it's more challenging to do a really delicate image with really thin, fine lines than it is to do blocks of color like this. If you need a visual whenever you start sketching, this might be a great way to go for you, either paint or doing paper cutouts or some way where you can block it in instead of doing these really thin pencil lines. You can see as I'm sketching, I'm also writing notes to myself. That way when I take this and then translate it into a final sketch, I have even more ideas. Whatever you can get down quickly, whatever you associate with the subject matter you chose, go for it. Now that I have my page of designs and different shapes and ideas, I can take and refine these to make a final sketch. That's what I'm going to do on this page here. I'm going to go in through here and looking at what I like and what I don't like. I really do like the wings incorporated into the beetle somehow and I really like how the shapes of this one turned out. I'm probably going to try and combine a couple of these into a final sketch. If you have this page and you're not really sure how to put it all together, you can always feel free to do an extra page of sketches. Sometimes you don't get exactly what you want on your first go and it just takes a little bit of time and perseverance. I'm thinking about how big I want my final design to be because however big I draw, this is how big I'm going to curve it. Think about the size of the block that you want to use and what you might want to use it for in the future. If you want to do a pattern, you might want to do smaller but if you want to do a greeting card, you might want to do a little bit bigger. I'm just going through again, looking at this as I'm drawing. I like the wings on this one, but I didn't wanted to do a full wide wing span because I want to keep my beetle a little bit smaller, a little bit more contained, so I chose to push the wings back again to the side a bit. I'm trying to make the little beetle legs, a little bit chunky so it'll be easier to carve out. I don't want to get too fiddly with my details because it will be really hard to carve later. Once I have this basic shape, I like to go back with either a sharpie or an ink pen and fill in like I was doing with my sketches over here with the values; where I'm going to put my lights and darks. That way whenever I go to transfer this and carve it out, I've got a really clear idea of what I'm doing and it's not as much guesswork. Because I can tell you from experience, if you don't do the planning ahead of time, you end up recovering about halfway through. Spend some time in the design phase, get exactly what you're hoping for, looking for, and then jump into your final piece. I think that's going to be the design of my final beetle. Again, take a look, make sure that there's a lot of some nice dark values in here so that you're not trying to carve out teeny tiny details. Now that we have our final design, it's time to put it on tracing paper so that we can transfer it easily and accurately to our block. Use number 2 pencil or some soft lead to draw over your lines. That way, whenever we transfer it to the block it will be much simpler than if you use a harder lead pencil like HB or 2H or something like that. Just carefully go around all of the shapes that you just got done designing. If you want to, you can take your pencil and shade in all the areas that you colored in with your ink pen, but that's not necessary. Another way to do this is to get some carbon paper and then you can use that to transfer. I prefer this way. It's simpler. I always have tracing paper and a pencil lying around somewhere so even if I'm traveling and I don't have to worry about taking the extra carbon paper whenever for transfers. I'm not going to worry about clean little tiny lines in there because I can just draw them directly on the block when I transfer. But whenever I'm done, I'm going to have something that looks like this. Whenever you're done, post your final sketch on our project board. I'd love to see what you guys come up with. I will see you in the next video. 3. Basic Supply List: Hey guys. Now that you have your sketch ready to transfer onto the book, I thought it would be a great time to chat about what supplies you are going to need in order to actually accomplish this. The first thing I would recommend, especially if you're just getting started, is a Speedball carving kit. These are really great. They come with five different blades on them, and you can pick them up at any local art supply store. You open it up, it's got everything stored right here in the bottom, which is awesome, and you've got all your different gadgets that you're going to need in order to carve your block. That's the first thing I would recommend. You can always upgrade your tools later. The next thing you are going to need is linoleum. This is kind of a harder, thinner linoleum, this is golden linoleum. I got this from [inaudible]. You can see I've already taken a chunk out of it, so I'm going to be using one of these smaller pieces for my final design. There's another option you can use, it's a little bit thicker, a little bit softer linoleum. There are a lot of people that like to use this and recommend it. I don't like working with it because it can't get the same amount of detail. If this is a struggle for you to carve because it is a little bit more resistant, I would either stick it in an oven for just a couple minutes and it'll soften it up or stick it out in the sunshine on a warm day and again, it will soften it up to where it's really easy for you to carve. But I like this because it transfers latter and it also holds more detail when you're carving. So this is my recommendation if you're looking for something a little bit softer with less resistance, this is a good option. So I've got some ink here, I do like working with water-soluble ink. I've got Speedball here today because again it's really easy to get a hold of and it's cost-effective. You can get four colors for less than $10, which is awesome if you're experimenting, or playing around with different stuff. There is also oil-based ink that I use for some of the more detailed larger prints but, again we can talk about that in another class. So water-soluble Speedball if you're not sure if you're going to like the color or if you're going to want to do this for very long, they come in these little teeny tiny tubes like. This is 1.25 fluid ounces. This is a really great option, highly recommended. So paper is a great place to experiment whenever you're first getting started. I would recommend probably a cotton paper at first because it's got a really nice thickness, it pulls prints really well and it even shows a little indents when you're done. So it really shows that it's a print. My favorite brand of this is BFK Rives, and you can get that in a lot of local art supplies stores; it's really fun to play around with. You can also use watercolor paper if you have that readily available. Also, you can get Rice paper which comes in rolls like this. I have a little bit left, which is very exciting. This is a really thin paper, so it's really easy to pull prints on, you don't have to put very much pressure into transferring the ink and you get a really nice clean, clear, crisp prints. Another successful paper that I've used, it's pretty cost-effective, is the printmaking paper. It's just a pad of paper. It's pretty thin like the rice paper, so it doesn't require a lot of force in order to transfer the ink onto your final print and it looks really nice. So those are some great places to get started. A couple additional tools that you are going to need. This is a Brayer, it is for rolling the ink onto your palette later. It makes things very, very easy. You can use a brush, but you'll get a texture if you use a brush, so this makes things really nice and smoother. You can pick these up in a lot of different places. I'm actually embarrassed to say, I don't remember where I got this one. This will last forever if you take good care of them. So it's kind of an investment. This is a Baren, This is, again, its speedball. These are really easy to come by and they are great because if you wear one out like this one's about worn out, you can see it's kind of bubbling a little bit and it's got ink all over it from a lot of use, but this is really great. You hold on to the handle and you move in circular motions to distribute the ink onto the paper, and it's a very easy to use great tool. You can find bamboo versions of these in Japanese print stores. I've seen all wooden versions of these too. This is my recommendation. It's again cost-effective, easy to come by, and it's lasted me over ten years. Let's get started with transferring your print. See you in a second. 4. Transferring Your Image to the Block: Now that you have your final sketch, traced on tracing paper, find your linoleum block, and also find yourself either a nice sharp pencil or a ballpoint pen because we're going to transfer our image onto our block. In order to do that, you need to take your block. I'm going to fit this guy right here in the corner. I'm going to turn it face down so that the graphite is in contact with the linoleum block. Then you want to tape it in place. I would recommend taping all four corners because you are going to be putting some pressure on your paper whenever you go over your lines and you don't want anything to shift, otherwise you might get a sloppy transfer. I like to use a pencil. Again, a ballpoint pen will work pretty well also. You can, even if you wanted to use the back of a spoon, but with that, results tend to vary, the lines get a little bit spotty. I'm going to be using a pencil today to go over my lines. You can always lift up one corner of your taped image just to kind of see how you're doing. You can see that I've got a pretty clean transfer because I'm really trying to stick closely to the lines that I've already drawn. Anytime I miss the line, I get one of these gaps like you can see a little bit here. Double check to make sure you've got everything. You can slowly pull this away. You can see my transfer is a little bit faint. That's all right. I will still go over this with a thin sharpie. You can also use a thick sharpie. That way, you can put your values in again, especially if this is the first print that you've ever pulled, I would probably recommend putting those values back in there. You can start by tracing around your lines and then I'll go back and add value. Notice how my image has flipped, so now it is reversed of what it was whenever we drew it originally. This is great, this is exactly what you want. It's not as big of a deal with an image, but it is a big deal when you start doing text. When you're doing text, you really want it to be backwards whenever you're tracing it onto the block or carving it, otherwise, you're going to have a final piece that people can't read. Now I can use a thicker sharpie to fill in the values. This step isn't necessary if you feel pretty confident about where you want your colors to be in, where you don't want your colors to be, then you can skip this step. But if you are new to this process, it is recommended, it makes things just a little bit easier so you don't accidentally carve it into a spot that you didn't mean to. I would also really recommend using sharpie on the linoleum because it's the one ink that I have found that even when I print over it, it doesn't really come off. A lot of the other inks from ink pens and stuff will bleed onto your final art, and that is never fun. Lastly, I'm going to add those lines back in my original design. There we have it, it is ready to be carved. 5. Carving Tips and Techniques: Now that we're ready to carve, let's go over some basic safety tips. I've got all my gouges laid out here. I'm looking for this really nice, big, U-shaped gouge because I want to go ahead and outline all the way around this before I start on little fiddly details. Now, when you carve, you want to keep your fingers out of the way, so I tend to carve more like this, and you want to always carve away from your body. That way, if your knife slips, you don't end up missing an appendage or stitches or any of those fun things. The other thing too that I used to do whenever I first got started, is I would carve way too deep into the linoleum. You don't really need to carve really deep valleys into this. You just need to get that first layer out of the way. The reason for that is, whenever you go to roll on your ink, your ink is only going to catch your highest surfaces. So as long as this surface here, that's slightly lighter now, is lower than my sharpie surface, this is the only thing that's going to catch ink. I'm keeping my cuts real close together because it's forming these peaks and valleys every time I slice out a little bit more, and I want to keep those as minimal as possible because, again, they will catch ink. Something to keep in mind, you don't have to carve super deep, but watch your peaks and valleys, otherwise, you're going get a rougher quality to your print. I'll go over the whole outline of this guy first, and then I'll go back in and I'll start adding details. Now, another trick that I have learned over the years, instead of taking all this time to carve out this really big area, what I'm going to do is, I'm just going to carve out almost like a moat around this little guy, and I'll probably take a box knife and cut away so I've got a rough shape of my beetle when I'm done. That way, I can reuse this and do maybe a little mini carving or print or something. So it's a little less wasteful to do it this way and it's actually easier on your hands and your arms if you are new to carving. I'm also carving on this big, gigantic, green cutting mat. I've had this thing for forever, it covers my entire desk. But even when I'm traveling, I take a little cutting mat with me, that way wherever I decide to carve, I'm not damaging anybody's furniture, and it also helps keep the linoleum block from scooting around too much, because it's got a little bit of texture to the surface that keeps things in place a little bit better. If you don't have your own cutting mat at home, you can always opt to use a towel. That will work as well. Now that I have finished curving out all the areas I want to carve out in my block, I'm going to use my box cutter to cut around the image itself, just to save some of this linoleum and to make printing easier for me later on. What I will say is, if you choose to cut your image out, you want to cut out around images. You want to cut out around areas that are already carved because they're thinner, and you're going to have to make three or four shallow cuts across the linoleum in order to get it to come away. Don't try and do it all in one cut because you have to put too much pressure and there's a greater chance that it's going to slip and you're going to get hurt, so take your time with this part of the process, just like any other part of the process we try making. Then, there is. 6. Proofing Your Print: Before we start printing, we want to make sure that our carving looks exactly the way that we wanted it to look and to do that, you might want to pull a couple of proofs. The way that I typically do this is I will use just a plain sheet of printer paper or some other kind of thinish paper and today I'm going to be using a wood-less graphite pencil, but you can use a soft chalk, pastel, charcoal, a regular pencil, anything that you have available. You just want to essentially do a rubbing over your image to make sure that you didn't accidentally forget to carve something, or maybe something needs to be thinned out a little bit, or you wanted to add a little bit more detail in a different area. It's just good to kind of do a little test before you make anything permanent. All right. I'm pretty happy with this image and how it has turned out, so I'm not going to do any more adjusting at this point in time. 7. Pulling Prints: All right. I have all my supplies laid out and ready to go. I created using newsprint little registration area. The straight line in the corners mark where my paper is going to be laid down, and I also took an outlined the block. This will just help me make sure that every print looks similar as I'm pulling them and I won't have to worry about fiddling with paper after I connect it to the block. I also have two piles of paper here. I have a pile of newsprint, just like three pieces. This is to continue to test my block. I know we did a rubbing before to test that we had what we wanted. But sometimes when you ink it up, it turns out a little different even so. I also have the rice paper that I was mentioning before, this really lovely thin paper that you don't have to soak. It holds up really well and it looks really cool when it's mattered in frames. I'm going to be using this for my final prints today. This is the speed ball bearing that we talked about earlier, and the Breyer to roll out my ink, and I'm going to be using magenta ink today. I'm in a really bright color mood lately, so this is my jam. The really cool thing about this is I don't need a palette knife. I can just give it a little go here across the palette and it's ready to be rolled out. Whenever I take my Breyer and I roll my ink out, I put it down and then I pick up as I come down. This helps me cover all the sides of the roller. But you wan to make sure that every side of your roller is coded with the ink, and I like to go back and forth both ways because right now you can hear it's really loud. It's a really, really loud Velcro sound. Even though you want that Velcro sound right now, because these are just so thick, you can see how big the texture marks are and how loud the noise is. That means I've got a little too much going on. When that happens, which should happens to me quite often, I'll tend to roll the other way, and I'll scoot things over until I get the texture and the sound that I'm looking for. Right over here, the texture is a bit smaller, and even though I can still hear that Velcro sound, hopefully you can hear it too. It's not as noisy as that first was, and because when I roll I lift, and then come back down and lift all of my Breyer, like all these edges are covered and ready to go. Now I'm ready to roll the ink onto my block. I'm going to just do it over here next to my registration. You just want to make sure that you cover all those lines. I'll typically do two coats on my first test print like this will be my first coat, because it's thin, I'll ink up again, and I'll just roll, enrolling in all different directions too, to make sure that I'm getting all those nooks and crannies in there. Now I'm ready to pull my first test prints. I'm going to lay this carefully down. Notice how I'm gripping the edges, I'm trying really hard not to touch the ink that my hands won't get dirty and my block won't get smudged, because it will show in your final print. I'm going to do a piece of newsprint test paper first. I'm going to practice registering and make sure I'm getting what I want. I always lay down from one side, I go from corner to corner,and I'm going to shimmy it around a little bit. Then I'll just gently smooth it across here to make sure it's stuck. Then I'll take my barren, you can also use a spoon for this if you want to, especially because these are probably going to be a little bit smaller and you have a lot of control with the spoon. But I wanted to show you guys the barren today. I like to do circular motions from my shoulder to really press down and get the ink squished onto the paper and see how my paper is skidding around, but my block is attached underneath to my paper because of the ink. I'm not smearing my print, so it's okay if it does that. Something to notice here is I have these halos of white around like little pieces of ink. That's because I did not wipe away the extra linoleum crumble ease off of my block like I needed to. That's what I'm going to take and do now, I've got these rags, which are just old t-shirts that I cut up, so I can recycle them. I'm wiping away all those little crummy, gross things, so that next time I pull this print from an access print, it won't look quite so crummy. The other thing I noticed too is right here by his arm, I didn't quite carve away enough of that. You might want to keep your carving tool handy because you may have to carve out some little tiny areas you were not expecting have to carve out, so I'm going to do that really quick. I'm going to really make sure I get those off of my registration and away from my working area. I don't want them to sneak back into my print anywhere. I'm just going to take the rag as well and give it one last go to make sure I'm getting all those little buggers off of there. I'm ready to ink up again. If you start running out of ink over here, you can always come back over to this area that has maybe more ink, pick up some more and start going over this little thing. Round two, this is going to be another test print because the first one was not exactly how I wanted it to be. Again, I try to line up from one side, I'm left-handed, so I line up from the right side. If you're right-handed, it's probably going to be easier to line up from the left. Do what's comfortable for you. Again, smooth that overwhelm holding down this side so it doesn't move, because smooth it over gently, and then I'm going to take the barren and just really circular motions to get that one there. Now you may go through 4-5 test prints before you start pulling your final prints, and that's okay. You really want to take the time to get it just how you want it. Yeah. I'm getting closer. I still see a few little buggers, but I think I can work those away and then get away with pulling a file print. I'm just going to wipe off my black one more time. Notice that the arm situation is taking care of over here where I had to carve out, that's all gone now, so that's awesome. I'm bringing across some more ink because I'm noticing that this ink, the magenta is drying pretty quickly. That's one thing about speed ball, it's a gamble. I have not ever use the magenta color before today, so I didn't know how fast it would dry. Speed ball because they know they're in does this makes over tartar, and you just it's like a clear substance and you just mix it with whatever color and it slows the drying time of the ink, which is really nice if you're having to carve way some more things or you're fiddling with things or whatever. As a really loved the rise paper because you can see really easily where you've gone over and where you've missed. Because just like with the tracing paper when we were transferring, the lines get darker, so it's really easy to see where I put my ink. If you're not sure, if you have covered all of this with your barren, something you can do is hold the bottom of this and gently roll the top just to make sure you've covered everything and then you can put it back and do the same thing. I'm going to turn this so it's easier. But you can do it with the other side or the bottom as well to make sure that you've just evenly coated everything and got it the way you want it before you peel it up all the way, because we registering this is pretty challenging. This is how my final print turned out. Now, I would love to hear from you. How did yours go? What does it look like? Share it with us on the project page. Looking forward to seeing what you guys have done. 8. Final Thoughts: Congratulations, you've just finished pulling your first set of prints. By now you should be pretty comfortable with the process of sketching and transferring, carving, and then printing your block. I'd love to see how your final artwork turned out, so please share it on the project page. If you like what you have seen here, please follow me to see more. I'll see you again soon.