DIY: “Linocut” Christmas Cards

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After rejecting all the pictures from our Christmas card photo shoot (apparently we’re not that photogenic) Katie and I were still in need of cards for our friends and families. Luckily we had some nice paper and printmaking supplies on hand. Keep reading to find out how we used the above supplies and to see the final product!

I am by no means a printmaker but I do understand the basics of linoleum printing. The things you’ll need for a simple card are:

A linoleum block (OK, OK, that isn’t linoleum in the picture but it was cheaper than the lino blocks available at the time)
Cutting blades (a variety is good)
A rubber brayer (the roller above)
Ink
Paper (a textured paper may impact your prints in a good or bad way, see our finished product)
A flat inking surface (a pane of glass is great but something like a piece of styrofoam, which I had to use, can also work)

While this image may look like an ad for Speedball, any brand supplies will do. I don’t have detailed instructions for the entire process but here are some important tips:

1. Pick your image. Remember that it will print in reverse! This may not matter sometimes, but it definitely will for text.

2. Plan your cuts. You can draw your reversed image right on the block to guide carving. Alternatively, you can freestyle your design.

3. Use your cutting took to carve away the lightest parts of your image. Whatever is uncarved will come out inked. You can’t carve greys, but you can use hatching or stippling for shading. Use small gouges for cutting thin lines, and large ones for thick lines or for clearing large areas. Always be in control of your cutting tool. Note, that doesn’t mean a tight grip! Many people will recommend only cutting away from you. That isn’t always necessary but make sure that you aren’t cutting toward your fingers. You will cut yourself. I have.

4. When you’re happy with your block it’s time to start inking. Put a dab of ink on your inking surface and spread it out with the brayer. Go back and forth and change directions. The goal is to evenly coat the brayer. Add more ink if it isn’t completely covered. Too much ink will cause it to slide, not roll.

5. With the evenly coated brayer, roll over your carved block until it is evenly covered. Go back and forth in multiple directions here too. What you see is what will print. If ink is filling your carved shapes you may be using too much ink or the gouges may not be deep enough.

6. You can print either by putting the inked stamp on your paper or by carefully placing the paper on top of the stamp. Either way, rub the back of the paper or block to ensure the ink adheres to the paper.

7. Carefully pull away the paper or block to reveal your print.

This can be a messy process but luckily messy linocuts can look great. The most important thing is that the paper and block do not shift as it will smudge your image. With the rubber block I used, the sponginess also caused it to stretch and shift on some test copies. That shouldn’t happen with actual linoleum.

That came out longer than expected but once you try it you’ll see that it’s really a simple process. Try it out for some amazing personalized cards for any holiday or occasion.

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