How to Make a Christmas Tree Linocut Print

Linocut printing is a great technique to use for making Christmas cards, as once you have cut the design in the lino, you're ready to print as many cards as you need. You can personalize the cards further by painting in some color on each. This tutorial takes you through the process step by step

01
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Linocut printing supplies
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

You'll need some lino, tools for cutting it, paper, blockprinting ink or paint, and a brayer for applying the ink. (You can learn about the types of lino and lino cutting tools in the Introduction to Lino.)  Water-based printing ink is easier to clean up, but it needs a soft brayer to roll it out, not a hard one. You can, of course, apply ink or paint to lino with a brush, though it's harder to do so evenly.
 

Lino Printing Supplies:

Speedball Linoleum Block 5"x7" (Buy from Amazon)

Speedball Deluxe 4" Hard Rubber Brayer (Buy from Amazon)

Speedball Block Printing Tool Kit (Buy from Amazon)

Speedball Block Printing Ink Starter Set (Buy from Amazon)

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How to make a linocut
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Print out the Art Worksheet with the Christmas Tree linocut design so you can trace it onto your piece of lino. Or, alternatively, copy it freehand as your version doesn't have to be exactly the same as the one on the worksheet.

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Draw the Design on the Lino

How to make a linocut
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The crucial thing to remember with lino printing is that whatever you cut away won't print. Those areas will be the color of the paper. It's logical, but surprisingly easy to forget when you start cutting. So draw the design onto the lino in a way that will help you remember which bits you want to cut away and which you want to keep.

This photo shows the piece of lino I used with the Christmas tree design drawn on it with black pen. I've marked the border area to remind me I want to keep that; likewise the star. The other, single lines, are lines I'm going to cut, as well as the background between the tree and border.

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Linocut printing
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
Don't forget to keep your fingers behind the linocutting blade as you're working. Turn the piece of lino around as you go so you're cutting away from yourself. Don't stress if you don't cut exactly on a line you've marked, just adapt the design.

If you cut out a piece you did want, stick back a piece of lino with some glue when you've finished or use a piece of poster putty.

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Consider the Background

How to linocut
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
You can cut the background totally clean, so nothing prints there. Or you can leave some areas with a few "rough bits" to create a little texture. As you can see in the photo, I've left quite a bit around the star at the top, cutting lines to the border to give a sense of starlight extending. You might leave some background at the base of the tree to suggest grass.

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Ink Up

Linocut printing inking with a brayer or roller
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.
When you've finished cutting the lino, ink it up and do a sample printing on a scrap bit of paper to check it. Often you'll find there are bits you want to neaten up. Wipe the lino with a bit of paper towel to remove the excess ink, then cut those bits.

When spreading ink onto a linocut, you want it to be even and all over. It's very easy to miss the corners, so double check before you print! Be careful not to put on too much ink (over-ink), or any small grooves will fill with ink. You'll soon get a feel for how much ink is enough, so don't stress about it.

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Print the Linocut

How to make a linocut
Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Put the inked lino onto a hard, flat surface, place the sheet of paper over it, then apply pressure to transfer the ink to the paper. I use a small, hard brayer, but the back of a spoon works well too (move it around in a circular motion).

To make a Christmas card from the linocut print, you can either print it on a piece of paper that's big enough to fold in half for a card, or trim the prints once you've created them and stick them onto a folded card.

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Admire Your Christmas Tree Linocut Print

How to make a linocut
The print (left) and the lino (right). Photo © 2009 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

All that's left is for you to pull the print, and admire it. Assess how it's printed in terms of where there wasn't enough ink or pressure, and adapt what you did for your next print. But remember, each print will be slightly different, these are fine art prints you're creating, not computer prints.

Further Reading

Block Print: Everything you need to know for printing with lino blocks, rubber blocks, foam sheets, and stamp sets (Buy from Amazon)

 

Updated by Lisa Marder 11/28/16