With the festive season in full swing, we've been thinking of ways to get creative this Christmas - from recycled wrapping paper to homemade Christmas cards. With that in mind, we asked creative consultant Lottie Barnett to teach us how to do lino cut printing at home. We've followed colour-lover and part-time print-maker Lottie on Instagram for a while, admiring her botany-inspired hand-cut lino printed letters of the alphabet. We fancied giving it a go ourselves and thought you might too, so here's how it's done in five simple steps.
Before you start
You'll need to buy a few items for your lino printing kit before you get started:
- Pencil and paper
- Tracing paper
- Lino – I use softcut lino from Jackson’s
- Lino cutting tools. I use these but you can get cheaper starter kits such as these.
- A roller
- A smooth tray
- A spoon
- Some paper to print on to
- Water-based relief printing ink
1. Look for inspiration
Plants and nature tend to be my starting point, offering a never ending supply of lovely shapes, patterns and textures. Traditional Christmassy motifs include holly, ivy, snowflakes and robins, or find inspiration closer to home - from your front door to your dog. Whatever you choose, think about how this object will look in a single colour print. When you’re first starting out, avoid anything with too much detail and go for something with a strong silhouette.
2. Draw your design
First, think about what size you want your print to be – is it for a greeting card? A repeat print for wrapping paper? Or a print for your wall? Once you’ve decided, take a sheet of lino and draw round the perimeter onto your paper. Your design must fit within these lines.
Lino cut printing is relief printing, which means you carve away the parts of the lino that won't have ink, leaving the bits that will. Therefore when drawing your design, think about where you want to have ink and where you want negative space. It takes a bit of getting used to. I find it useful to colour in the parts that I will leave and try not to colour the bits I will cut out, so you can begin to see what your print will look like.
3. Transfer your design to paper
When you’re happy with the design, lay a piece of tracing paper over the top and trace over it with a pencil. A slightly softer pencil such as a 2B is good for this as it will leave more graphite on the tracing paper, making it easier to transfer.
Now turn your paper over, lay it on your lino (lino should be shiny side up) and rub the back of the tracing paper to transfer the image using a pencil.
4. Cut the lino
Carefully carve around your design using the cutting tool. If you're nervous about making a mistake, do a test cut on the edges or a scrap piece of lino to get a feel for how the tools work. I usually start by cutting around the edge of the design and then doing the more detailed bits once the outline is complete.
Remember, whatever you cut away will be negative space – i.e. invisible – and whatever you leave will take the ink. If you’re feeling unsure, you can always skip to step 5, try a print and then see what else you need to cut away. It's better to cut too little than too much as you can’t uncut once it's gone!
5. Print to paper
The printing part is deceptively difficult – all the components need to be just so in order to get a nice clean print. First up you need to roll out a small amount of ink on a clean smooth surface – a tray, or glass chopping board is perfect, but it must be smooth. Less is definitely more when it comes to ink – best to layer it on in a few thin layers than one gloopy one.
Roll a thin layer of ink onto your surface, and work it a bit, rolling your roller back and forth until you hear a nice satisfying hiss. Then roll a thin layer onto your lino and repeat until it looks evenly covered.
Next, place your lino down on the table ink side up, and carefully place your paper of choice on top. Using the back of a spoon, rub over the back of the paper with quite a lot of pressure, to help the ink transfer, being careful not to move the paper in the process as this will smudge it.
Once you've evenly exerted pressure over the whole surface of the print, you can peel and reveal. Ta-da! Your first original lino cut. You can print as many as you like from the same relief so feel free to play with different colours of ink or paper for an alternative take on your design (just make sure you rinse the lino with cold water then dry it before applying a new colour). When you've finished, wash the lino so it's ready for next time.
Lottie hosts lino printing workshops in London and sells her own unique lino prints online via Instagram. Find out more on her website, at www.lottiebarnett.com. If you've been inspired to give lino printing a go, we'd love to see! Share your creativity with us by posting your homemade prints on Instagram, tagging Cupsmith and using the hashtag #cupsmithcreates.
All images credited to Lottie Barnett.