What do I use to make linocuts?
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
I have tried quite a few different brands of printmaking supplies and tools - here are my favourite, tried and tested.
1. Lino: my preferred lino is hessian-backed gray lino. It carves beautifully, especially when fresh and it's not too cold in a room. If it's too cold in a room where i carve I warm it up on a radiator for a minute or 2 (if it gets too hot it will crumble).
I also occasionally use Japanese vinyl, it hold details very well but, personally, I find it very hard to carve. I also use MasterCut soft lino in my workshops as it's much easier to carve than gray lino and less risk of a sharp tool slipping etc.
2. Linocutters (Gauges). I have to admit: I do believe that a good quality linocutter (or gauge) does make a difference so my advice is - buy the best quality you can afford. I use 2 high-quality brands: Pfeil and Flexcut. You will initially only need a couple: U-shaped and V-shaped in medium-size. I gradually expanded my Pfeil collection to 7 tools to suit all my mark-making needs. A few months ago I also bought a Micro Palm set by Flexcut - I love using them for tiny details.
3. Ink. I use Caligo Safe Wash oil-based ink - it behaves like a traditional oil-based ink offering great coverage but can be easily cleaned up without any harsh chemicals - just soap and water. I also often use gold ink - my choice is Traditional Gold by Cranfield. It's slightly more difficult to work with than Caligo SW and needs to be cleaned up with vegetable oil straight away - if you let it dry on your tools and lino you'll need to use white spirit to clean it off.
I have a selection of process colours plus Opaque White and Extender and just mix everything else from them.
4. Press or no press?
I don't have a "proper" printing press, just a DYI version that I use sometimes (a converted cold laminator, to be precise) and I prefer to burnish by hand - I use glass barren "Print Frog" and an old bamboo spoon - my favourite!
5.Rollers. I tried few different cheap rollers - some of them were absolutely unusable imho. Here is a selection of my favourite rollers - all of them are very affordable (the little ones are brilliant for some tricky selective inking of small areas). Clockwise: my largest roller - Abig Wooden Handle roller, then 2 "Narrow Rubber rollers", then Deluxe Soft Rubber Speedball roller and finally - small Abig rollers. The narrow rollers were from Lawrence Art supplies, the rest - from Handprinted (where I get most of my art supplies).
6. Printmaking paper. I mostly burnish by hand and that slightly limits my choice of paper to print on: it needs to me thin enough and quite smooth. I like Japanese papers - lightweight and very strong. My favourite are editioning papers from Awagami. I also often use Zerkall, Fabriano Rosaspina and Somerset (though the last two are quite heavyweight so can be tricky to hand-burnish).
7. To ensure the perfect registration of paper and lino I use Ternes Burton tabs and pins that can be bought from Handprinted (see the link below.