Yesterday I cut and stamped these new labels. And I took the time to show you the process.
This is how traditional linoleum looks like. According to my knowledge it is available under the name artist's lino in art supply stores. Its advantage compared to the soft lino that I was reviewing before is that is is firm and slightly brittle. This makes is possible to work out finer details. (If you need to go even more detailed you have to switch to harder materials, for example wood.)
The first thing to do is to sand the surface a bit to rub off some of the really hard finish on which it is very easy to slip with the carving knife. In the following picture you see at the left the (not yet completely) sanded lino.
When the lino is evenly sanded and cleaned, I painted them with thinned white water color:
Let it completely dry. - This shouldn't take long and afterwards it looks like this:
The advantage of the whitened surface is that it is easier to see the pencil marks:
You can now directly sketch on the lino with a soft pencil. Don't use sharpened pencils, because their pressure could already effect your prints. If something is not to your liking, you can try to rub it of with a usual rubber or simply wash the pencil marks off with a damp cloth - then you may want to apply white paint again.
There are also techniques to transfer images that you happen to have already onto the lino. You could for example trace an image printed on a sheet of paper with a soft pencil, and then rub it then onto the whitened lino. Then you get a mirror image of course!
Once you have your image on the lino, you start cutting away everything that you want 'white' in your print. (White means in this case the area where you don't want to print.)
A general warning: Remember to cut away from your body and fingers all the time!
You start by tracing all areas with a contour knife. In this case I simply used an exacto knife for this task. Generally you want a sharp knife with a blade not too flexible. Hold it as a slight angle away from the area that will remain on the lino, so that the edges of an area don't break off while printing:
Very fine details like very thin areas between two areas may already be removed that way. Then you take the V-shaped cutting tool and take away more lino. Again I trace the areas first and then take away more of the small areas. I can't mention this often enough: Always push the knife in a direction away from your body and fingers! The tools are very sharp. You will definitely slip at one time and you don't want to risk cutting away fingers or stabbing yourself. Instead of turning the knife (possibly towards your body or fingers) rather turn the lino when cutting around corners.
You don't need to cut very deep, essentially you only need to scratch the surface. Depth is needed to make the coloring of the plate easier. But already a slight dent in the surface will show in the print. So be careful where you rest your knife and how you store your linoleum.
The deeper you cut the more strength you will need, and the more strength you apply the more likely your knife will slip and ruin your work.
Here I am finished with the V-shaped knife and take the U-shaped tool in my hand. With the U-shaped tool it's easier to cut shallow and take away larger areas. I started taking away the interior. I generally like to start with the areas where I have to concentrate more (i.e. slipping is really bad) and pass on to those where I have to concentrate less.
Now I cut around the motif, inside the area where I already took away some lino. When bend the lino will easily break, and then you can use ordinary scissors to cut through the jute on the back to cut out the printing block.
Before you start printing, wash away the white paint!
The printing itself is the same as I have already described it when printing the smiley oracle. In this case you'll probably won't need soap for the paint (another advantage of sanding the lino). Another advantage of this traditional linoleum compared to the soft lino is that you can print with oil based colors (if you think this is an advantage, there are pros and cons regarding the choice of paint).
Afterwards you may want to take care of your tools. I am using oil stones to sharpen my cutting tools. They look like this:
In my set are 4 different stones,
Since it was already sharpened, you just have to have a close look at it to figure out the right angle in which to rub it on the stone. Rub both arms of the V back and forth in the correct angle - maybe ten times. You should have so much oil on your stone that you have a thin film of it on top that you push around with your blade. If you click on the picture you can see it. You do this on all four stone - and your tool is sharp again. Oil the blade lightly, wipe off any excess and store you tool.
Now we take care of the U-shaped knife:
Again you should be able to see the correct angle because it was already sharpened. This time you don't push it back and forth, but sideways, turning the knife around. Also go from the roughest to the smoothest stone, wipe off excess oil and store your tool.
In either case you don't need any strength here. You should rub the blades lightly, just so that you get a faint sound. Don't press too hard. If you feel your knife is rather getting dull than sharp, you are using the wrong angle. Just start over again and don't be afraid to try again. It needs some exercise before your wrist knows how to hold and to turn the knives.
Now have fun trying it yourself, don't hesitate to ask further questions. On the left bar you can see the tag 'techniques: linoleum', click it to read related posts.
Thanks for reading!