Quick & Easy Printing with Linocut | Leitha Matz | Skillshare

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Quick & Easy Printing with Linocut

teacher avatar Leitha Matz, Maker

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.

      Intro to Linocut


    • 2.

      A Bit of History & Project Overview


    • 3.

      Designing Your Project


    • 4.

      Linocut Materials


    • 5.

      Transferring the Design


    • 6.

      Time to Carve!


    • 7.

      Proofing & Printing


    • 8.

      A Few Ideas for Your Prints


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About This Class

In just a couple of hours, you can make your own custom linocut block to put your mark on stationery, book plates, clothing labels or whatever else you might want to personalize.

In this Intro to Linocut, I'll show you the process and the tools, and then I'll demonstrate how to cut and print an amazing letterform. This class is great for beginners and those who are looking to extend their printing skills.

And you've taken my Intro to Woodblock Printing class, then you'll already have some of the tools and skills you need for this project!

Meet Your Teacher

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Leitha Matz



I work as the head of product at a startup, but when I'm not at the office, I'm always making things of my own. I especially love illustrating, writing and design.

Here at Skillshare, I usually focus on creating classes in printing -- everything from stencils to woodblock.

I find printmaking inspiring because anyone can quickly start making successful prints with very few tools. It really opens the doors to producing a vision of your own on all kinds of materials: t-shirts, walls, stationery, stickers and so much more.

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1. Intro to Linocut: Linoleum printing is a form of relief printing that's been around since the invention of linoleum floors. Linoleum allows us to print on a variety of surfaces, from fabrics to all kinds of different papers and card stocks. So it's very flexible, it's extremely easy to work with, it holds up pretty well over time so you can print a lot of different prints on a lot of different surfaces. One of the things I love about linoleum printing is that if that happy medium point between rubber prints and woodblock prints, rubber is really easy to work with, but it doesn't really hold up well over time, which gives you crisp edges and lasts for quite awhile, but it's a lot harder to carve. So linoleum is an easy starting place and I think you're really going to enjoy working with it and carving with linoleum unlike the mats. I love to print and I love to share my love of printing with other people. So if you enjoyed this class, I would encourage you to check out my other classes on rubber relief printing and screen printing and printing with stencils. For the project in this class, we're going to use linoleum printing to make a monograph or a short phrase, and then you can use this to personalize your things. You can use it for labels and put it on gifts as a signature, you can help promote your business with it on stationary or packages or whatever you have. Linoleum printing is really easy and really fun. I think you're going to love it. So let's get this started with an overview of the process. 2. A Bit of History & Project Overview: Thanks for enrolling in this class. I think you're really going to have a good experience with learning the ways of linoleum. The substance was actually invented in 1855 by an Englishman named Frederick Walton. What happened was he noticed that linseed oil, when it hardened, became like rubber. It was rubbery and firm, but then also flexible. He thought it might be a good product to replace rubber that was coming from India at the time. He derived the word linoleum from the Latin words, linum, flax, because it is a flax seed oil and oleum for oil, of course. He established his Linoleum Manufacturing Company in 1864, very close to London. But the linocut printing actually began in the 1900s with a German expressionist group, Die Brucke, who worked in Dresden, which is actually not far from where I live now here in Berlin. The linocut printing technique caught on, and soon Picasso and Matisse were also doing linocut work. I think this provide some inspiration for where linocut can take you if you want to do more of it later on. The first step will be determining a design that's going to work for your first linocut. After that, we'll do the transfer of the design to the block. That will either be drawing directly on the lino itself, or you can transfer from something that you print out from your computer onto the linoleum. After that, we will begin carving. From the carving, we'll do some proofs and end up with a print. As we finish up the class, we should have a project that you're able to print onto a variety of surfaces. Linoleum blocks are easy to print onto fabrics and for a variety of paper products, and cardboards, and things like that. You should find a lot of interesting places to use your new linoleum block print. To kick off this session, we'll start with a few ideas for how to concept your design. 3. Designing Your Project: As you get started in laying out a design idea, you want to think bold. You can do some pretty thin lines with woodblock printing, but linoleum can be tricky, if you try to do something too small, it'll just break off. Most of what's here on my bold monograms Pinterest board should work fine, but on an area like this ampersand here in the Victoria and Albert Museum monogram, you might find that the thinner parts are a little more difficult to do. I also think if you use some of the other classes on Skillshare, for example, the Logo Design Fundamentals class here, a lot of these animal marks are really in the right category. We're looking for those nice solid lines, and you can have some points, but the idea is that you don't have anything that's too thin or too small. Now, let's take a look at the design that I've been working on. You can see that I'm creating some trouble for myself here in the area of the berries and the flowers, the branches should be totally fine and the letter is good, but anything that's smaller, and I'll show you here that I also created some little bees and those are definitely not going to work. So under the Image menu, I've sized this panel to hit the eight centimeters square size of my block, and you'll need to do the same for whatever size you end up getting when you go shopping. Another alternative, if I would've pursued it, that would have been good for this, would be something in the slab. Now, this isn't the design I'm going to carve, but you can see that outside of these thin lines here, it's going to be really easy to get up into these edges. But I'm going to work on this one, and I might actually go with two different linoleum plates, breaking up the berries and flowers into a separate plate. When I do that, it's going to be a little easier because I won't have to go into a corner to do the carving, so we'll see how this goes. If I have to ditch the flowers and the berries entirely, I'm okay with that too, and, of course, because we're dealing with reversed images when we do printing, the last thing we're going to want to do on this design is to flip it around before we print it. So I'll go up here to the Transform Menu and choose "Flip Horizontal", and there we are, ready to print. For your design, go out and find some inspiration, check out some bold icons and monograms, like the ones in George's class or in my bold monograms Pinterest board. Hopefully, that'll give you some ideas on a direction that you can go in. As soon as you have some inspiration, post it in the Project Gallery, and in the next step, we will move into transferring this design onto a block so that we can get carving. 4. Linocut Materials: Now let's talk about supplies. If you've taken one of my classes before, then you are probably familiar with some of this stuff. The first thing I want to talk about is the knife, which is this little round guy here. It comes with a bunch of different gouges and you can replace those in the handle. The ones that I use most often are the small V gouge, and then the U gouge. The V gouge gives you sharper, cleaner edges, and then the U gouge helps you to quickly hollow out areas that need to be light on your print. The area below here contains a few different linoleum pieces. I have linoleum that is not mounted and it has a fabric backing, like the backing that you would see on carpet. It looks like that. Sometimes you will find them on blocks of wood already, just gives them some thickness, maybe makes them easier to use and they don't curl up. I also have a pencil which is great for doing transfers from my design to the block. You'll also see that I have a few more things here that I'm going to use for the printing aspect of this project. The ink is just your basic speed ball, it's a water-based inc. You can also use an oil-based ink, but I recommend that you start out with water-based because it's just so much easier to clean up. Next to the ink is a Breyer. This is a soft rubber Breyer, and my Breyer is going to help me get the ink onto the surface of the carving. Here's a little brush, I use that for doing minor touch ups on the print after it's come out, sometimes there's just a little something where you want to move the ink slightly. These are on top of a piece of glass which is really handy to use for pouring out your ink and then getting it spread across the surface into that nice texture that I'll show you in a few minutes. I've got some paper here, this is just very lightweight paper, marker paper that I'm going to use for doing my proofs. This last round disk over here is a baren. You're going to use the baren for rubbing the paper on top of the design to make sure that you get an even coating of ink. Now this one is a fancy Japanese baren, but you don't need one like that. There are ones that are made of plastic that do the trick just fine. You can really use anything that has a smooth, even surface that you can move across the top of the print. You can be inventive about this. Some people just use a clean Breyer to do that pressing part, but I'll show you that later on when we do the printing process. Finally, let's talk a little bit about what this big wooden object here is. This is called a bench hook, and a bench hook is something that you could make yourself if you're handy with wood. But I pick this one up at a block printing supply store. This is something that's going to be pretty useful to you if you plan to do a bunch of printing. Your benchmark has a lip to help it stabilize at the edge of a table, and then it's got this smooth surface with an edge on top. You can put your linoleum block right in the corner here, and it will be stable and steady and isn't going to go traveling all over the place when you do you're carving. We'll see all these supplies put to use in the upcoming videos in carving and printing. 5. Transferring the Design: There are several different ways to transfer your design. The easiest way is to not do a transfer at all, just to draw directly on the linoleum. You can use a pencil for this, and linoleum allows you to erase pretty easily. Another way to do it is to design something on your computer and then you can do the transfer by rubbing the back of the printout pretty heavily with a graphite pencil and then flipping it over onto your linoleum and doing a tracing. I usually use a ballpoint pen for this, but try not to indent too hard. You don't want to actually create divots in your design. Now you can see here this is pretty light, so I'm going to come back in and darken those lines again with my pencil. When I get done doing this, I'm going to have a really good guide to start cutting and we'll do that in the next video. 6. Time to Carve!: Once the design on the block is ready, it's time to start carving. As you can see here, I've set up my bench hook and I've selected a small v-gouge tip for my knife. Now I keep the block in the corner and that's for stability. I'm going to slowly move across the outlines of the design. I suggest using a light pressure. This doesn't need to be a deep cut. If you're pushing hard, it's really easy to let that knife get away. Shallow grooves are just fine for these outlines. As I work, I'm going to turn this design to keep the pressure going toward the bench hook, and I want to keep my fingers out of the way. Now you're probably going to slip eventually, and you don't want to gouge your hand. It's it's better if you gouge the bench hook. Just keep moving along, and once those outlines are finished, I'm going to change over to a u-gouge and I'll start working on the open light areas. Again, this is going to look best if you keep your lines consistently in one direction. I'm going to work through this until I have all of those areas of light dug out. Then when it's time to wrap things up, I'm going to go back to the small v-gouge and I'm going to do those details and the cleanup work. Now it's looking pretty good, I think it's about time to try doing a proof, and we'll do that in the next video. 7. Proofing & Printing: So now it's time to start printing. You can see I've got all the materials I need laid out in front of me. I've got some newsprint down to protect the surface. To start out, we'll just put down some ink and use the breyer to go over the glass surface and create that nice texture that we're looking for. It's like an orange skin. You can see that its got a tackiness that is going to adhere nicely to the linoleum block. Put the linoleum block down in a clean place on your newsprint. Go over it with the breyer. When you get all of the ink distributed around the surface, move it to a clean place on your work surface and put down your paper. I'm going to use my proofing paper which is that letter weight marker paper. I'll use a light pressure evenly across the material. You can see the design coming through the paper just a little bit. As we pull it up, we can check out the line work that we got in the printing process. I think I'm going to take out a little bit of the detail here to lighten up those dark areas a bit. You can see when I do another proof based on that new lighter weight design, that you get a little more detail in the cat tails. You can see also when I change from one paper type to another, there's some variation in how the paper will pick up that ink. In this second piece here, the more cream colored that's on a heavier weight paper, and there's a flaw down here at the bottom where I think a crumb got onto the print. But you can also see that it's picking up a little more material out there in the white areas. That's cool. So experiment with different paper and do proofs until you're happy with how your design looks. So as you post your project in the project gallery, I'd love to see a couple of proofs that you do along your process. Those are always interesting to see how you think through your design as it develops. In the final video, I'll talk a little bit about some things that you can do additionally with your linoleum block and with your new prints. 8. A Few Ideas for Your Prints: So that was super fast and easy. The concept to transferring your design to the linoleum, doing the carving, doing the printing, you can do all of this in a couple hours. It takes you actually longer, I think, to track down the materials and where you're going to get the linoleum. If you don't have already the little cutting tools, you'll spend more time doing that than you actually will on the process of doing your with linoleum designs. Once you have something to print with, you have all kinds of opportunities on what to do with it. I find that linoleum prints are really good for making business cards or making tags for products. You can do labels for jars and things if you do, like those jelly or hot sauce, or any of those kinds of things. Linoleum printed label is pretty cool, and you can do a lot of them. Your linoleum print should hold up for a good long time. You can do some experimentation with the inks. I would suggest trying some oil-based inks. Then you can do a little bit of color here and there, like I did on that blackbird. Another thing that you can do with your prints, you can turn them into cards, you can do colorization with them. There's a lot of fun that you can have if you do some prints and then want to do some after effects on them. I hope you had as good a time watching this as I did making it. I hope to see your project soon in the project gallery. I think that's the most fun part of this class, is seeing what you guys produce. I hope you'll join me for my next class, which is in woodblock printing. We'll see you soon. Thanks a lot for joining the class.