I thought that today I would dig out a Lino Kit from Essdee that I was given for my birthday. This post is part review and part “how to” or “how not to” (this was my first go at lino printing).
I should say up front and loudly I am NOT an artist, I am, at best, a crafter (not to disparage crafters – we are brilliant!). I have always loved lino cuts and wood cut designs (as my Pinterest design board proves). I love the texture of the finished designs and their simplicity (though some of the designs I love are anything but simple).
In order to get started, I began doodling on scrap paper and decided on a simple flamingo design. Again, did I mention that I am not an artist.
Customers often tell me that they are rubbish at sewing or drawing or being creative. If you are even a little bit doubtful of your creativity, the best (and only) way to improve is the keep doing it (and I bet you are much better than me anyway).
I chose my final design (and made sure it would fit on my piece of lino). I drew it with a black sharpie on A4 scrap paper (it doesn’t have to be a sharpie, any pen dark enough to shown through to the back of the paper will do). I turned the drawing over (sharpie side down) and drew over my design in a soft pencil (mine was a 3B, but try with whatever you have to hand). I turned the paper over again (sharpie side facing up) and positioned it on top of my lino. Using my pencil, I drew over the sharpie lines. The pencil marks I drew on the back of the paper transferred onto the lino (clever eh!). I did need to neaten up the design on the lino where the pencil transfer hadn’t come through completely, just to make the design easier to see.
Next I started carving using the biggest, shallowest of the cutters in the kit. I was aiming to remove the excess lino all around the design. This was my first time ever carving lino so I used the wide space around the bird to practice using the tool (maybe I should have done this earlier, but I didn’t want to waste a sheet of lino on practice).
I kept forgetting to use the hand protector (If you have a go, make sure you use it as it would be easy to slip and cut yourself with the sharp blade). The carving process was straightforward. It took me a while to get a feel for the correct angle and pressure of the blade. So, I stayed away from the bird until I was feeling a bit more confident (I also switched to a smaller blade when I got closer to the design).
The nearer the bird I got, the slower and more careful I was about my carving marks.
It probably took me twenty minutes to carve the design (this lino piece was postcard sized). I probably could have done it faster, but I was being careful and didn’t want to carve into my design by mistake.
Once I was happy with my carving, I used my sharpie again to colour all the raised parts of the design so I could see if I had missed anything.
Now it was time to get inking. The kit comes with a black, water based block printing ink, an ink tray and a brayer/roller. I squirted a small amount of the ink in the tray and used the brayer to spread it out into a thin, even layer. I laid my finished linocut on top of the ink and smoothed it all over (using my hands), to make sure it was evenly inked. I carefully picked up the lino and pressed it onto some A4 paper. If I had read the instructions, I would have discovered that they say that you should lay the design down ink side up (on a scrap of newspaper) and add your paper onto of the design. But, my way worked out ok. The first print was a bit uneven, so I tried again.
Some people might dislike the lines around the bird (I could have carved them away for a complete “clean” design), but I liked them. Nothing says lino cut to me like those carving lines.
I should say that my inking tray from the kit is not flat (despite the instructions stating that would should use it on a flat surface), I think that this makes getting an even inking slighter more difficult (but not much more difficult).
Now this site is all about fabric right? So why am I printing on paper?
I printed the design on some scrap cotton lining. I think it came out well. If I was printing this on fabric “properly” I would use a fabric ink rather than the block printing ink.
I printed the design on a polyester scrap – but the ink and the fabric really didn’t get on (I don’t think it came out badly, but it is not a clean, crisp image.
I used the last ink in the tray (there is loads left in the tube) to print the design on our Faux Linen fabric. The printing could have probably done with more ink in the tray, but I think it looks good.
So, there is nothing left to do know but clear up and tell you my thoughts about the kit.
Overall, I am very happy with the kit. I don’t think that it is particularly high quality (the wonky ink tray for one thing). The carving tool seems very short and the metal ring which you use to tighten the blades gets in the way of the carving action occasionally, if the handle was longer, I think that this wouldn’t happen. I am sold on the idea of lino design though, so I am off to order more lino (the pieces in the kit are quite small, so they won’t last me long).
If you decide to have a go at Lino Printing, I’d love to see your results. Do let me know.