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'.
Inexpensive to buy
Buy in pre-cut A4/A3 blocks or a large roll
Great for fine detail
Physically easy to carve
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
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.
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
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
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.
The best stamp carving material available
Incredibly easy to carve physically
Blocks can be very easily cut
Expensive to buy
Unforgiving (even the smallest mistakes will show on a print)
Less widely available than traditional lino
What type of lino do you prefer to use and why? Let me know in the comments below.