This isn't the only way to do things, but it's how I've been printing.
First I draw the design. If it's simple I work straight onto the linoleum, but if it's fairly symmetrical it's useful to draw it on tracing paper so you can check that both sides are the same. If it's a complex design you'll probably want to work it out on paper first anyway, then trace it to get clean lines to work with. If it's something that reads better in a particular direction (like lettering) it will need to be reversed, as the print will be in reverse.
Next I trace it onto the lino block using carbon paper, and then go over the lines with ink. If you have a really steady hand you could probably skip the ink stage, but it's useful to make sure your lines are accurate, and to prevent smudging while you're cutting.
For fabric printing I've found that thicker lino is easier to print with; about 5mm thick is great.
For some reason I prefer to use woodcut tools for cutting lino, and I find a V-gouge the most useful. I think they're easier to sharpen than lino tools; but, depending on the kind of mark you want to make, you could use anything from an ice pick to a craft knife.
I cut all the outlines first, and then clear out the bigger areas using U-gouges of different sizes. For fabric printing you'll need to cut deeper than for paper printing, because the lino block is pressed onto the print surface, rather than the other way around. I tend to cut almost down to the backing (another reason thicker lino is better).
The thick lino is often harder than the thinner kind. It's important to keep lino warm when cutting, so that it stays fairly soft. This minimizes the risk of the tools slipping and ruining your block or your fingers. In summer it's not too much of a problem, but in winter you'll need to warm the lino every now and again as you work on it. The simplest way to do this is to work on two blocks at once: sit on the one you're not working on. As soon as the working block starts getting cold, swap it for the one you're sitting on.
*Update: I no longer use traditional linoleum, rather a plastic one. Traditional linoleum doesn't stand up to repeated printing with water-based ink.
wow, thank you for sharing your method! i just started playing around with lino blocks and this definitely helps!
I love this tut and my best part is the sitting on the lino to warm it up! (ps: I put up a couple of market pics at skinny laminx)
I am so keen to try this out! I also love the practical hint to keep the lino warm!
This is so interesting - thanks for posting. I a really curious to learn about the inks that you use.
Cooool. What a lovely tutorial. I'm a pattern and fabric nut and just recently I've been thinking about having a go at printing my own for fun, but didn't have a clue what that would entail. Any more tips you can share would be wonderful!
I'm glad there is someone else out there sitting on their linoleum blocks ;) My studio can be chilly in the mornings, so it's a must.
I haven't tried wood carving tools yet but the fact that they may be easier to sharpen has peeked my interest!
Oh! Now I need to find lino and tools and fabric paint and... :D
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for sharing your technique. I have two blocks that have been waiting upstairs since December because I'm nervous about destroying them! I love the sitting on one block while working on the other tip... great idea!!!
Thanks for this great post! Can't wait to give this a try!
Thanks so much for sharing. I'm actually planning to lino block print the fabric for my coming baby's nursery chair. And need to know how to cure it. I used to do lino block printing as an art student some years ago, but it was with paper not fabric so I did not have worry about curing the ink. Can you tell me how to do that? Also, I am in Cape Town, SA as well and would really appreciate any leads you can give me on where I can get the appropriate, non-toxic inks for the job.
I use the Dala fabric ink - it's water-based, so low in toxicity, and I haven't had an allergic reaction to it (I'm fairly sensitive to inks). You can find the specs on the Dala website, as well as info on curing. I heat my oven to 200C, turn it off, and put the fabric in for 20 minutes. Smaller pieces I iron with a very hot iron.
I think you can find the Dala ink just about anywhere - Artsource in Obs is my local, and they have a great range.
Hope that helps!
So incredibly generous of you to post your techniques on line for the WORLD!, Especially, as your textiles are so FABULOUS! You are an inspiration to get STARTED!
Thank you soooooo verrrry much! Love your textiles!!xxoo!
Hi J, what a great tutorial. I am trying to block print using a water based ink called Permaset, (I'm printing on organic cotton tee shirt material). It's been a disaster so far - the ink isnt transferring correctly to the fabric and the result is faint and patchy. Which sort of Ink are you using? Is it specifically for block/relief printing? Your results are amazing! Caroline xx
Permaset is very similar to the ink I use. It's hard to say exactly what the problem could be - perhaps not enough ink on the block, or perhaps it's the fabric itself? I haven't printed much on t-shirt material, but perhaps the knit texture plays a role.
Hi Jesse, thanks so much for replying.
I think it might be the fabric - it's very soft, almost like brushed cotton. The block sticks to it like crazy, but when I lift it off, most of the ink is still on the block! Grr.
Anyway, think my next step will be to have a go with 'flocked' lino, which is supposed to help with coverage...I will not be beaten!
In the meantime you can keep inspiring me with your beautiful designs & colours. Cx
If the fabric is at all brushed or fluffy, that's the problem! The ink can't reach most of the fabric; instead it's getting stuck in the fluff.
Hmm, it is pretty soft. Not fluffy as such, but not smooth and tightly woven like the sort of fabric you're working on.
If it turns out to be the fabric I may have to resort to screen printing. I'd be really sad if I had to do that because I love lino block. It's so much more rustic and personal. I'm not giving up on it just yet, though!
You produce the most amazing textiles! True art. How do you know where to line up the prints to make them look so uniform? Do you just eyeball it or do you use some sort of formal guide to make it look so uniform?
Thanks so much for sharing.
Thank you :) For large prints I often simply eyeball, but for the smaller ones I usually have some marks on the back of the block for lining up with the previous print.
Hi Jesse, I'm having huge difficulty printing onto fabric using lino and speedball screen printing ink. it just isn't thick enough and doesn't go on evenly resulting in a blotchy print. I really don't want to waste anymore money and wondered if you knew of any way I can make this ink work on lino or do I have to buy I different ink after all? Kind Regards
What kind of roller are you using to apply the ink? I find that a sponge roller works best with thinner ink, as it doesn't slip around so much.
you mention that you are using "plastic linoleum". What exactly are you using? Vinyl floor tiles? I would love to know since I am also using original lino on fabric.
The plastic linoleum is very similar to vinyl floor tiles, and although I haven't printed with those, I see no reason why you couldn't. The lino is usually called something like 'Easycut'.
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