Types of linocut blocks

Following on from a previous post detailing my tools and suppliers, I wanted to expand a little bit on the different types of lino blocks that I use and why I use them.


I alternate between three main types, depending on what I’m creating; traditional grey hessian-backed lino, Japanese vinyl and Speedball speedy carve. Below are some pros and cons I’ve assembled based upon my experience with the three types. There is a fourth type called 'Easy carve' that is usually cream coloured and falls between traditional lino and pink rubber on the scale of how easy they are to carve. When I teach my linocut workshops I tend to stay away from this type of lino block that beginners often use as I feel you should learn on what you mean to continue to carve on, which is the traditional grey lino.


Traditional grey hessian-backed lino

This grey material is most commonly associated with lino printing. Below, you can see some example cuts into the lino using a variety of different sized tools and the block I carved to print 'Alley Cats'.

Pros

  • Inexpensive to buy

  • Buy in pre-cut A4/A3 blocks or a large roll

  • Great for fine detail

  • Widely available

  • Physically easy to carve

Cons

  • Difficult to cut into smaller blocks as the backing it so strong

  • Can be difficult to clean as ink stains the block

  • Degrades over time and becomes dry and brittle (at room temperature, fresh lino should be bendy and have that lovely linseed smell)

  • Can be difficult to see where you’ve already carved


a traditional grey hessian back linseed linocut block

beatrix squirrel linocut block


Japanese vinyl

This vinyl is blue one side and green on the other. Both are the same type and both can be carved into. Cutting into it reveals a black layer underneath which is great for seeing where you have already carved.

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive to buy

  • Buy in pre-cut blocks

  • Black layer revealed as you cut into the block

  • Easy to cut block without mess

  • Great for large blocks of colour/minimalist designs

  • Easy to clean the block after use

Cons

  • More difficult than grey lino to physically carve (tools need to be sharpened frequently)

  • Less widely available

  • Fine details can be difficult to achieve without practise


cuts made on blue green japanese vinyl used in lino printing

an example of a carved japanese vinyl block as a fern design

Speedball speedy carve

I use this rubber primarily to make my wood-mounted logo stamps for small businesses. I have also carved small prints and greeting card designs into it as it prints well in a press on thick card.

Pros

  • The best stamp carving material available

  • Incredibly easy to carve physically

  • Blocks can be very easily cut

Cons

  • Expensive to buy

  • Unforgiving (even the smallest mistakes will show on a print)

  • Less widely available than traditional lino


logo stamps for small businesses etsy

What type of lino do you prefer to use and why? Let me know in the comments below.