Illustration based linoleum printing

Illustration based linoleum printing - student project

For this exercise I chose to work with an illustration that I'd made previously from this wonderful class: Illustration by Design: A Guide to Elevating your Drawing Skills by Ira Marcks

After creating that design I really wanted to make it into a print one day, so I was very happy to find this class by Jennifer as it really inspired me to get back into linoleum printing after many many years - I think the last time I tried, it was in school or college...

Preparing and cutting the linoleum

Illustration based linoleum printing - image 1 - student project

It was handy to use my previously-made digital artwork as I could print it out in the size that I wanted my print block to be. In the future this trick could be really helpful for taking any sketch or drawing and scanning it into my laptop so that I can resize it and print it out however large or small I need the image to be.

To prepare my linoleum block I used red watercolour paint as I didn't have any acrylic at home. This actually didn't work too well as the moisture in my hands lifted off the paint pretty quickly, so as soon as the shops open again I'll go and get some acrylic paint for next time!

Next I used a graphite stick to rub the back of the printed drawing and then traced over the lines to transfer the image to the block. 


Illustration based linoleum printing - image 2 - student project

 I'd decided that I wanted to keep most of the space black and to carve out the leaves and stems so they would be white. However to mix up the image and keep it interesting, I chose to keep some random leaves as black and just outline them very finely, so in order to remind myself out this while cutting, I blocked them out with a permanent marker.


Illustration based linoleum printing - image 3 - student project

 The final cut - hooray! I was surprised at how long this took to complete... admittedly many many hours over several half-days work. But since it was my first time cutting linoleum in over 10 years I wanted to go slow so I could get used to the feeling of the tools and pressure variations... also I was very nervous about slipping and cutting something by mistake! I'm sure it would have gone much quicker if I'd used easy/soft cut lino and better quality tools, but since this was just a 'practice' to get back into linoleum printing, I'm okay with it for now (:

The whole process was very relaxing and I took several breaks in between to give my arms and neck a break!

The prints

Illustration based linoleum printing - image 4 - student project

The test print

From here I could see the areas that needed to be cut deeper and also some lines and shapes that needed to be adjusted.

I know that in linoleum block printing it's a common practice to leave some cut marks visible and also to draw them intentionally in order to add some texture and depth to the image, however my vision for this print was to get a very clean, sharp, and contrasting black and white image. For this reason I decided to take away the extra lines inside the leaves. But for future prints I'm definitely going to experiment with different marks and textures using the tools.


Illustration based linoleum printing - image 5 - student project

My final print using a simple off-white sketching paper

Even though now the print is how I imagined it to be, I'm a bit critical towards the design and if I did it again I would like to adjust some of the lines and shapes... perhaps I was working a bit too controlled and if I'd loosened up with the carving I might have achieved something a bit more dynamic and interesting... for me it now looks a bit too clean, like it could be a digital print XD... anyway, I've definitely learnt a lot through this process!

Oh, and I forgot to do the signing before I took this photo, but thank you for sharing with us how this works - I really appreciate it (:

Further experimentation

Illustration based linoleum printing - image 6 - student project

I went on to try out the print on a yellow paper to see how it would work with colour. I love the yellow but unfortunately the paper was quite textured so the print didn't come out too well, even after I tried wetting the paper beforehand...

Illustration based linoleum printing - image 7 - student project

I also found another coloured paper in my scrap box which was very scrappy indeed! But I really liked how the print came out a bit more grungy-style, and the black paint looks really cool on the dark purple colour - something I hadn't imagined working well but in fact had a really nice effect on the image, I suppose because it reduced the contrast between the light and dark areas and took away this 'perfectly clean' visual.

So in end I had created what I had imagined I'd wanted to see, and wasn't so pleased with it, and then experimented and found that the opposite worked better for me :')

Thank you Jennifer for this lovely class. I had also watched your other classes on 'Re-leaf' prints and Mark making, and all of your great instructions and tips lead me to try this piece. I want to go on and create other pieces to do with those topics and will upload them as soon as I get there... so excited to keep going with this technique!


Mila Mai
one step at a time