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It has been almost a month since I set up my home linocut workshop. I love this art so much that I create a new design every other day.
Before having my dream workshop, I made some completely avoidable mistakes. I’m sharing them here so that you can find your best tools right away without making the same mistakes as me.
In the beginning, I started with a cheap linocut kit just to see if I liked it or not. While it’s a good idea to test before making more substantial investments, the result wasn’t up to par. These beginner kits should be seen as a test, and one should not get discouraged because they are of very poor quality and do not yield good results.
Another way to see if you like it, in addition to getting advice from a professional, is to sign up for a short course. In just 4 hours, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start linocutting. I attended a course, and here’s my detailed review.
Next, I opted for quality tools, and I immediately saw the difference. As recommended by artists, if the result is poor, you won’t know if it’s due to the materials or lack of talent. However, if you already have quality tools, you’ll know how to improve. Here are the tools I recommend:
Gouges with interchangeable blades like these are not stable enough, and the blades are not sharp enough. I do not recommend them.
Pfeil gouges (Amazon link) from Switzerland are of excellent quality. They can also be resold without any problems as they are professional tools.
I purchased the Pfeil Kit B, which I find interesting financially (152€) even though I only use 3 out of the 5 gouges since I make small-sized linocuts (A5 or smaller). Individual gouges cost between 26€ and 35€ each, but it’s very difficult to find a particular size as they are never in stock. Kits are easier to find.
For comfort, I also bought a gouge with a long handle because it provided more strength, but I find the Kit B already complete. If I could buy them individually, I would simply get two gouges, but unfortunately, there are often stock problems.
- Pfeil B15/6 (v-shape) for details (both small and large)
- Pfeil L9/5 (u-shape) for clearing empty spaces
These gouges do not require much maintenance if you use them for your DIY activity, but it’s worth sharpening them from time to time inside a piece of leather. You can find all of that at leather shops.
Tools You Already Have
You will need:
- a spoon (metal or wood) for refining details during printing
- a permanent marker (Amazon link)
- the design & carbon paper (Amazon link) for transferring it onto the linoleum
- tape to hold the design and carbon paper during transfer
- a ballpoint pen
There are different types, but I really like gray linoleum: transferring through carbon paper is very easy, and it has a certain flexibility that makes carving easier. I buy it in A4 size as it’s easier for storage and cutting.
There are different types of ink. I recommend Charbonnel ink, which is water-washable. It’s easier to clean.
Once you gain more experience, you can use their regular range of inks.
I’ve already written an article about this brand on my other blog. For me, it’s the best. The ink is highly pigmented but easy to clean with water and soap. I can wear white clothes and make prints without any problems.
Normally, you spread the ink on a piece of glass, but I don’t want to buy any, so I cover a plate with plastic wrap and spread the ink on it with a roller. It saves me one step in the cleaning process.
You don’t need expensive rollers, but I like the version with two handles so I can place it on my worktable without spreading ink everywhere. Be sure to choose a roller width that matches the average width of your artwork. Personally, I chose a width of 12cm because I only make small designs.
There are smaller ones (6cm like this one, Amazon link). The brand I purchased is Abig.
When it comes to printing, keep in mind that in “printing,” there’s “pressure.” It’s the pressure that determines the success of the print. For that, I place the linoleum + paper between two flat cutting boards (make sure they are flat) and step on them. Voilà 😀 since I’ve been using this technique, my prints have been so much better than hand printing. Of course, I can still use a spoon to make the print perfect (after removing the first wooden board).
I made the mistake of buying professional paper with a watermark right from the beginning (Arches, a French paper). The problem: the paper absorbs too much ink, and I can’t achieve high-quality prints at my current skill level.
I recommend starting with inexpensive regular heavy paper (230g) that is commercially made and then switching to artist-grade handmade paper once you have mastered your carving and printing techniques. The colors I recommend are white/ivory and black (to make gold more visible).
I hope this helps you in setting up your linocut workshop. Enjoy the process and have fun creating beautiful prints!
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