My linocut tools and suppliers
I'm a self-taught printmaker so finding the most suitable tools and suppliers was a bit of a struggle for me when I first started learning about the medium so I've put together this guide to hopefully help new and existing printmakers.
All of the tools and suppliers listed are ones that I’ve bought myself and I'm not affiliated with them.
Traditional grey hessian-backed lino (my primary block type)
Speedball speedy carve (I use this material to carve my wood-mounted logo stamps)
I have created a separate post where I discuss the pros and cons of the different types of linocut blocks here.
There are many paper types used by printmakers across the world. Thinner papers are best for hand burnishing and thicker papers are better for printing used a press. Online paper suppliers often sell small packs of different kinds of paper so you can sample several different types.
I currently use a mixture of the following paper types for my prints:
Japanese HoSho paper (a favourite of mine, perfect for printing my hand or with a baren)
Somerset paper (beautiful paper in satin white, 350gsm, acid-free with great archival qualities)
Handmade mulberry paper (this is wonderfully textured paper that comes in various colours and some have flower petals and similar plant goodness set into the paper itself)
Stonehenge paper (thick white paper of great quality best used with a press)
Like most people, I began learning linocut using the red handled inexpensive tools with interchangeable blades. The first time I used my current Pfeil and Flexcut tools, it was like carving through butter. The different in my carving was immeasurable and my confidence grew.
Pfeil tools and Flexcut micro palm carving sets are superb quality but are rather expensive. If you are going to invest in anything at the start of your linocut journey, I would recommend getting a couple of Pfeil tools. II have a range of small and wide ‘u’ and ‘v’ shaped tools and these are listed below.
The first number represents the shape of the tool (the greater the number, the steeper the angle) and the second tool is the width of the tool across the opening. I use a flexcut slipstrop set regularly to help maintain the sharpness of the tools. They can also be sent away to be professionally sharpened.
I exclusively use Caligo safe wash ink by Cranfield for all my prints. I find these beautiful inks to have excellent coverage and they’re easy to clean up afterwards.
They come in a range of colours and are available in tubes or tins. I personally find the inks last longer when they're in tubes.
As with my carving tools, I started with very cheap plastic rollers and I didn’t find them up to the task at hand at all. The main problem with the cheaper rollers I found was that they didn’t actually roll most of the time which made them very difficult to use.
I now use the following. They're different widths depending on the size of the block I'm inking up. You will need to (carefully) use a solvent if you use the metallic oil based range of Caligo Inks as they do not wash off rollers (or hands) easily.
Japanese hard rubber roller (210mm)
Japanese hard rubber roller (100mm)
Japanese hard rubber roller (30mm)
Abig roller (60mm)
Abig roller (90mm)
For actual printing, I use either a combination of the following, depending on the size of the print and the paper type:
A wooden spoon; a standard kitchen wooden spoon, the kind you use for baking. This doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, I permanently borrowed one of mine from the kitchen.
A metal spoon; I mostly use a metal spoon if the paper is particularly thick or heavily textured. It’s best to avoid using a metal spoon on thin or delicate paper to avoid the paper tearing.
My own baren. I've made a printmaking baren that works excellently on all kinds of paper and the step by step instructions can be found here.
Printing press; I have a couple of different kinds of press. A lever press (A4 and A3), an antique book press and a table top large handled roller press.
I purchase my ink, paper and most of my printing supplies from Handprinted.
For paint supplies and brushes and rubber, I find Jackson’s Art Supplies to be a great place to go. They also sell lino printing supplies.