Art Speak: How to distinguish a linocut print

Posted in Inside Scoop, The Art-Isms by Charlotte Broomfield on 27th April 2014

Art speak is confusing. Heading to a print fair or looking for a print online but can't configure the difference between your silkscreens and your woodblocks? London-based print maker Lisa Takahashi explores the medium focusing on the lincocut print and we bring you 5 examples from Rise Art.

A linocut print, like a wood cut, is a form of relief printing. When I tell people that I make linocut prints many friends (especially those who grew up in England) recall making linocut prints at school.  The concept is pretty simple; the sections that you cut away from the tile of lino don’t get printed, and the bits that remain do. There’s a lot of brilliant artists who work with lino today – my favourites include Stanley Donwood who works a lot with Radiohead, and Suffolk based Claire Curtis, who is a genius designer. The Modern British prints from the 1930s are most inspiring to me – Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews founded the Grosvenor School which produced some amazing art, I find work from that time utterly beguiling.

LA Exit
Stanley Donwood

The lino tiles usually used for linocut prints are the cheapest form of linoleum, the same thing used for floors – a mixture of lots of materials such as linseed, resin, cork dust. This rubbery substance is adhered to a sheet of hessian which helps to keep the tile from mis-shaping, or breaking.
I use wood cutting tools to carve into my lino tiles, but there are also tools specially designed for lino.  These tools come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, I use a really wide gouge for big areas that I want to leave the white of the paper, and if I am carving something detailed like a person’s face, I will use a tiny gouge that has a tip that is a fraction of a millimetre wide.  It’s really important to keep your tools sharp, using a sharpening stone, preferably after every session, as this keeps the lines that you make nice and clean. A blunt gouge could cause the lino to break in places that you don’t want it to. A warm lino is so much easier to carve into, so I always have an iron close at hand when I am carving.

Linocut print by Cyril Power

Once you have your designed carved out of the tile it’s ready to be inked up. I have an old mirror that I use as a palette – it’s nice and flat so I know that the layer of ink will be nice and flat too. I squeeze out a blob of colour then use a roller to make a square of ink that is nice and thin. A thin layer of ink will have a slightly tacky quality to it; if it’s too tacky it won’t look good on your print. Getting it just right is a bit of a knack. You can then roll the ink on to the tile. Best to take time over this to get a nice even deposit of ink over the whole tile. Once I’ve done that I check that there isn’t any ink in places I have cut away – sometimes ridges where I have used the tool will pick up colour and if I don’t wipe these areas away, they will print, so I give all the carved areas a good wipe with a rag.
I use an etching press to print my lino. It comprises of a large iron bed and a roller, and a big wheel that the roller is attached to that I spin, causing the bed to pass under the roller and thus applying even pressure to the tile. I make a frame out of compressed card for each of my prints – the aperture is the size of the lino, the outer measurements of the frame are the same as the sheet of paper I am printing on. I fit the lino into the frame, put my bit of paper over the top in line with the frame, and then it’s ready to go through the press. The frame just stops the tile from slipping. Well, that’s the theory.

The Gale
Sybil Andrews


All my prints are 3 colour prints, and I carve a separate tile for each colour and just repeat the process on the same piece of paper 3 times. Transparent colours combine to make surprising and lovely colour mixes – I love the alchemy of this! Each print has its own character – maybe there’s a little more ink on a tile, or a little less, and you get subtle differences. And that’s kind of why I love it.


Tour de force
Lisa Takahashi

Hollywood Limousine
Stanley Donwood

R- The Ritz
Tobias Till

Nothing To Remember
Claas Gutsche


Still Life With Flowers
Lisa Takahashi

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