How to Carve a Linoleum Block for Printing

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Making your own holiday cards is creative and fun - and it enables you to create an individual expression in a world of mass-produced products. Here's how to prepare a block for printing.

Things You'll Need

  • Linoleum Block Carving Tool Sets
  • Linoleum Block Inks
  • Linoleum Blocks (s)
  • Clean Rags
  • Envelopes
  • Ink Rollers
  • Paper Or Greeting Cards
  • Paper Towels
  • Soft-lead Pencils
  • Tracing Paper
  • Paper towels
  • flat, glass baking dishes
  • Check your design carefully - is it the right size?

  • Check the spelling if there is text.

  • Assess the text and the design. Put it aside for a while if you're not sure you like it; change it if there's anything you don't like.

  • Take the drawing and flip it over onto your linoleum block so that the pencil marks are face down on the block.

  • Tape down the drawing if necessary. You want it to stay in place.

  • Trace over your drawing from the back. Go over every line, dot, and shading.

  • Transfer each separate color to a separate linoleum block, if you're planning to print in more than one color.

  • Lift the tracing paper off the block. The process of tracing should have transferred your design to the surface of the block.

  • Put the drawing aside.

  • Lay the linoleum block on a stable surface, and hold it in place with your left hand. (If you're left-handed, hold the block with your right hand.)

  • Use the carving tools to shape the surface of the block. You may want to use the edging tool first to outline any straight lines.

  • Brush away scraps frequently to maintain a clear view of your design.

Tips & Warnings

  • You don't have to be confused about multiple colors: Imagine that your ultimate goal is a green holly sprig with red berries and the words "Happy Holidays!" in red. On one block, transfer and carve the leaves and stem only - for green. On another block, transfer and carve the berries and the text. This will be the block for red.
  • If you're new to this process and confused about positive and negative space, mark your design clearly after you transfer the outline. For example, scribble over all the negative space in red and all the positive in green. Use this as a guide while you carve.
  • Do this project in a bright light - it will reflect off the pencil and make it easier to see the design.
  • Always cut away from yourself - not just away from your hand, but away from your fingers, too.
  • If you're having trouble, your tools may need sharpening - or you may need to carve more shallowly at first and then deepen your cut.
  • Remember, lines that are too fine won't print.

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