A linocut is a type of block print which is by using linoleum as the relief surface. Linocuts can have a striking level of depth and detail, especially when produced by skilled artists, and a number of artists work in this medium. Linocuts are very easy to make, which makes them appealing to some artists, especially those who are just starting to experiment with block printing. It is not uncommon to see a linocut on display in an art gallery, and such prints are often used to decorate homes and offices as well.
When a linocut is produced, a piece of linoleum is carefully cut away to create a desired design. Then, the linoleum is inked, and pressed against a piece of paper or fabric to imprint the design. Because a linocut is basically like a giant stamp, the image appears in reverse after printing, so artists need to think backward while they are carving the design, especially if the design includes text.
Sometimes, artists mount the linoleum to a block of wood to make it more sturdy and stable, although this is not required. The linocut can be produced either by laying the linoleum in the bed of a press and printing it, or by directly applying the linoleum to the surface which is to be printed. Pieces produced with the direct printing method require minimal supplies, which can be very convenient.
Just as with regular woodcuts, linocuts can be produced in color by using a different block for each color, or carving away at the relief surface between inkings to change the parts which are inked. Because linoleum is very easy to carve, it can be used to produce pieces with a high level of crisp detail without worrying about cracking or splitting. However, it also tends to degrade quickly, so artists need to think about how many prints they want when considering linoleum as a medium, as the linoleum will start to be compressed out of shape after a certain point.
This print making technique is taught at many art centers and colleges, and it can be a fun way to start learning about block printing. To make basic linocuts, all you need is linoleum, a pencil for sketching, a carving knife, some ink, and a roller known as a brayer. Once you master the basics, you can start to play around with the use of color and various other artistic tools which can enhance your linocuts.