Project 5: Linocuts

Preparing a Test Linocut


For this project you will be trying out various linocutting tools to make marks. This will introduce you to the possibilities of the tools and the range of expression possible with linocutting.

I have tried linocutting only once before, several years ago, so this is a new experience. This time I could only source a lino alternative, which as stated in the course notes, is easier to cut and needs no pre-warming – although the climate here is very warm anyway.  I found other challenges with it, in that it is very smooth and it is easy to slip with the cutting tool when trying to use minimal pressure. I also found it difficult to achieve the final severance cut at the end of a mark, however, that could be due to inexperience. The off-cuts were also very soft, akin to grated cheddar, which made them difficult to remove from the cut material.

A4 lino marked into squares for mark making trials

A4 lino marked into squares for mark making trials


Lino replacement marked into squares, placed in bench hook with selection of cutting blades.








Squared up lino with blades to be used where.

Squared up lino with blades to be used where.



Cutting tools to be used are marked as follows:

V-tools in varying sizes across top two rows
Squared tool across third row
Curved tool across fourth row
Gouge tools in varying sizes across bottom two rows.






I seem to cope with these the best at the moment, particularly with the lino replacement. They seem to be more precise and manoeuvrable, although I had to be careful not to cut too deep. I managed to achieve a wide variety of marks that would be very useful to give texture and illusions of tone in an image. I liked the fact that I could make angular and curved cuts relatively easily and cleanly.

Square Tool:

This was good for wider cuts that maintained their width along the line rather than tapering. It would also be good for larger cut out areas. A corner of it could also be used in a similar way to the V-Tools, and also to graduate line thickness.

Curved Tool:

This one I struggled with most.  It seemed to have less cutting area and I couldn’t achieve much variety of mark. I found I could use it “upside down” as well as the right way up and I could create some leaf-like or tear drop shapes which were nice. On the whole though, it’s not one I would call on much at the moment I think.

Gouge Tools:

As with the V-Tools I had a range of sizes to try. I could create a good range of lines. I had more success with angular lines than curved, which surprised me – although again, this may be down to being a novice and practice may improve this. Rocking the blade from side to side, I made a line that gave some interesting textures and patterns.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Where precision is needed, the blades required careful handling on the lino replacement as they could easily skid off and make an unwanted mark.
  • Using a medium soft brush to sweep away off-cuts was useful to clear the lino.
  • Likewise to above, a hand-held vacuum was a great help to clear up.
  • Although I haven’t yet taken a print of the marks made, it did occur that all the textures are in negative, I will then have to take this into consideration if I want a positive mark.
  • Applying differing pressures greatly affects the variety of mark.
  • Sometimes the end cut would not come away cleanly, so a sharp scalpel blade was useful for this.
  • At times, I left the partially cut section attached, I am keen to see if this makes any “impression” when inked and printed. I am thinking of scales, feathers, fur etc textures – we shall see.
  • From the marks made it is clear to see I am right-handed, so I must be prepared to turn the lino to achieve different directions and angles in those marks.

Proofing the Lino


Proofing of a lino block, by rubbing through tracing paper with a soft pencil.

Proof of Mark Making Linocut on Tracing Paper

Proof of Mark Making Linocut on Tracing Paper


The proof of the linocut helped me see what cuts had or hadn’t worked. As mentioned in my lessons learnt above, I wasn’t sure if my cuts, where they hadn’t completely come away would show any result when printed. This showed that some texture may be achieved but in the main, nothing of any note appeared.






The proof tracing next to the actual linocut.

The proof tracing next to the actual linocut.



I thought it valuable to record the proof alongside the lino itself to see how they differed as much as how much they were alike.





I decided to use a scalpel to help define the incomplete cuts further, otherwise their subtlety would be lost. I also decided to cut the grid lines into the lino to help define each square.

Printing the Lino

On printing the lino the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the result of the image itself, however, the edges were a little messy.  I had used a cloth to cover my printing table and the creases had taken up some ink which produced messy smudges along the edges. I moved the lino onto a clean glass plate, re-inked it and took another print. This was much cleaner and a little more uniform in its inking.

First attempt at pulling a print - the result was a little messy.

First attempt at pulling a print – the result was a little messy.

Second attempt at the print - cleaner and crisper generally.

Second attempt at the print – cleaner and crisper generally.











In your learning log make notes about how you might use the different textures and cut lines to represent your ideas. Do any immediately suggest a subject?

Many of the marks suggest organic shapes such as branches, reeds, grasses or leaves. Varying line thicknesses may denote perspective and/or tonal variations. I am delighted at how dramatic the images appear against the flat black. I can also see how tapered lines could suggest figures, their limbs and movement. For no specific subject, there is a dynamism in many of the images.

As for suggesting an actual subject, using a grid reference of A to D across the top and 1 to 6 down, I can particularly see in A2, a path or stream fading off into the distance with grasses or reeds bordering the way forward, overhanging leaves and branches. In B5, I can see a figure running towards the right with maybe, spectators around him. In many of the squares, there are parts of landscape and vegetation. At a stretch in B6, I see a figure seated beneath a sign or flag.

I can see so much potential to create striking images just by random marks and monochrome printing, I can’t wait to get started!