lino printing tools and suppliers
When I first started researching lino printing all those moons ago, finding information was a bit of a mish mash on Google so I hope this post might be a useful resource for beginners.
All of the tools and suppliers listed are ones that I’ve bought myself and I’m not affiliated with any of these companies. The tools listed here are ones that I use now. When I first started lino printing, I bought very basic and inexpensive tools online to see if I would like the medium.
As you’ve probably guessed, I absolutely adore lino printing so I decided it would be worth having the best tools I could afford.
I tend to alternate between different types of blocks for lino printing depending on my mood and the type of print I am creating, as follows:
Traditional grey hessian-backed lino
Japanese vinyl (the picture below shows the black layer that is revealed when you carve into Japanese vinyl, shown here on the block of one of my greeting card designs)
Speedball speedy carve
I'm in the process of writing a blog post exploring the different types of lino blocks so be sure to check back in a few weeks or sign up to my mailing list to be kept up to date with all stellabox goings on here.
There is a big magical world of different paper types and thicknesses out there just waiting to be explored!
Some online shops let you purchase sample packs of paper so that might be a good idea if you’re just starting out so you can play around and see what you like best.
I currently use a mixture of the following paper types for my prints:
Japanese HoSho paper
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)
I use Swiss Pfeil tools for all of my carving.
When I first tried these tools (compared to the very cheap plastic tools I had been using before) it was an absolute revelation! It was like carving through the softest butter you’ve ever carved in your life.
These Swiss tools are superb quality but they are rather expensive. I bought a set of six to begin with and then an extra tool and I’ve found them to make every type of line I could possibly want to make.
I 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.
I exclusively use Caligo safe wash ink for all my prints. I find these beautiful inks to have excellent coverage and they’re easy to clean up afterwards.
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!
It took me a few months to save up for my rollers and I now have the following;
Japanese hard rubber roller (210mm)
Japanese hard rubber roller (100mm)
Japanese hard rubber roller (30mm)
Abig roller (60mm)
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.
Japanese flat baren; a firm disc covered in a bamboo leaf and a handle, used for rubbing the back of the print to transfer ink onto the paper.
Printing press; I hand printed with a wooden spoon for a long time before I invested in a little printing press. I have a Woodzilla press (a company you can find on Etsy and on Instagram). I would recommend this type of press for traditional hessian-backed lino and Speedball speedy carve rubber but I’ve not found it particularly effective for Japanese Vinyl.
Other useful tools
There is one more tool that I'd briefly like to mention.
The awl is a fantastic tool to have if you're going to be creating jigsaw prints, prints where you split the block into separate pieces to ink and then put back together like a jigsaw before printing. My Mousehold VVitches print is an example of a jigsaw print, where the border is a separate block to be inked black and the main body of the print is inked a gradient of purple and dark blue.
The exact tool I use is called 'C.S. Osborne No. 478 Brad Awl' and you can see a picture of it below. I have a video on my IGTV on my Instagram where I use this tool to print if you'd like to see it being used.
I purchase my ink, paper and most of my printing supplies from Handprinted.
For my Speedball pink speedy carve rubber I use Amazon as I’ve not found another UK supplier for this material (and delivery is speedy and free).
For paint supplies and brushes, I find Jackson’s Art Supplies to be a great place to go. They also sell lino printing supplies.
One last place is Hobbycraft. I mostly use Hobbycraft for little bits and bobs including adhesives and for any Cricut supplies I need.