Linoleum’s relative flexibility means it is easier to cut than wood, and thus is a great option for beginner printmakers. There are now many options in soft rubber printing blocks, including 'Softoleum', 'Speedy Carve' and others that are even softer and easier to cut than linoleum. One thing to consider is that very soft materials don't always hold the same degree of detail as firmer blocks.
But which carving tools do you need for linocut printing?
Before we dig into the tools for linocut printing, here are few things to keep in mind when carving:
- Always keep hands and fingers behind the cutting edge and remember to cut away from yourself.
- To avoid carving dangerously, reposition the work as you progress, so that you use the same, comfortable grip.
- Some people use a protective glove on their non-dominant hand
- Carve with sharp blades; a sharp tool is more reliable because it cuts cleanly with little effort
- If available, you should use a Speedball Bench Hook to keep your block steady while you carve. This is also something you can DIY.
V Gouge: A V gouge, named for its fine V-shaped profile, is great for textures, basic outlines, detail cuts, and more. A V gouge is highly versatile and cuts equally well on both sides of the blade. Having an assortment of different sized V gouges offers the printmaker the ability to create a variety of designs. The deeper a V gouge cuts, the wider the line / more material it removes.
U Gouge: A U gouge is another handy linoleum cutting tool. Depending on the size, the U gouge can be used for both swift removal of larger areas of lino, as well as detailed clean-up after using smaller gouges or even creating texture. U gouges are not ideal for removing fine lines of material.
For those new to Linocut printmaking, buying a set of tools is an affordable way to make sure you get the tools you need to get started.
Speedball Lino Cutter Assortment: A linocut tool set such as the Speedball Lino Cutter Assortment is a great printmaking tool for beginners. The Speedball Lino Cutter blades are made of high-quality steel, are sharp, long-lasting, and are fantastic for carving soft linoleum. With five different cutter blades, the Speedball tool is great for both outlining and creating bold lines as well as etching clean, precise marks, and is well-suited to eliminating masses of block material. The Speedball Lino Cutter Assortment also includes a comfortable, durable plastic handle which has a handy storage space for the blades.
Linoleum Tool Set 6-Piece: For those looking for different options, a tool set with wooden handles is worth a try. Each tool in the set is made with heat-treated steel blades set in wooden handles which fits comfortably in your palm and eliminate the need to change blades mid-design. This long-lasting wooden tool set will make carving designs faster, easier, and more enjoyable.
Basic wood carving tools are very affordable and great for beginners, but it's easy to spend lots of money on really excellent tools.
You can find linocut and other printmaking tools and supplies at Wyndham Art Supplies; click the link to stock up today!