I was delighted to receive the parcel of Lino Printing Materials in the post. My first impression was how good quality the materials looked. I’m a sucker for a wooden-handled tool so I was immediately seduced by the Lino Cutting Set and Chunky Roller!
I knew I wanted to test the lino and associated tools out as part my current design brief: wedding invitations. The brief I have been given has a forest & feathers theme so I have been working with imagery to suit. I decided to carve a feather silhouette for the purposes of this product review in the hope that it would become part of the final invitation design.
The lino cutting tools were quite easy to assemble although it took me a while to figure out what the mini piece of dowel was for (it’s for prodding the blades out with, so you don’t have to pull them with your fingers!)
The Robersons Softcut Lino used was very rubbery and pale grey, quite unlike the chalky brown stuff I have always used in the past. I decided that right side for carving was the slightly textured side. This uneven surface holds the ink, if you inked the smooth side I think you’d have trouble with the paper sliding and smearing. This immediately saved me time, as usually I would have to warm the lino on a radiator and sandpaper it to give the best printing surface. So I was able to get cracking with my design. I was unable to draw my design onto the lino with a pencil so I had to resort to a biro, which was the only thing I could get to mark the rubbery surface.
I then set to work cutting into the lino with the finest of the carving blades. I enjoyed the texture of the lino. It was very smooth to carve and didn’t ‘give’ suddenly like other lino can. The edges were a bit of a challenge as the lino didn’t carve away cleanly and I had to pull bits off with my fingernails. But all in all I think I preferred this brand of lino- the smooth carving was a massive plus and I was able to trim off any rubbery snags with another of the lino tools. I had been concerned that I would cut all the way through the lino and make a hole in it but it was super easy to control, so that wasn’t an issue.
Finally, with the print completely carved, it was time to roll out some ink. In my home studio I use a neutral block printing medium and add coloured oil paints to get the colour and opacity I require. The chunky red roller rolled the ink out beautifully and evenly across my glass plate. The additional feature of the built-in roller rest was a revelation. It was so easy to keep my glass plate half inked and half clean (I’m squeezed for space somewhat) and the fact that I could rest the roller in between inkings, without it creating inky smears and lines all over the plate, was a real bonus.
The roller should make a fine hissing noise when rolling the ink, rather than a sticky crackle. All the prints I took had a pleasing, imperfect texture to them. I think with a proper relief printing press you could get a sharp image, but I’m a fan of the incidental and unplanned qualities you get from each print. I use a spoon to hand burnish the prints in my home studio. It is an extremely hassle-free way of printmaking on a small scale, and I find it more responsive and accurate than taking a print with another roller.
I used a couple of different paper stocks and was very pleased in particular with the effect on the brown craft paper.
I would definitely recommend all of the lino printing materials to other artists. I think everything I tried out was suitable for the novice printmaker and professional alike. The lino cutting tools didn’t come with any instructions so I guess I may have struggled to assemble them without my prior knowledge, and boy those blades are sharp! I’d recommend that any aspiring printmaker take a lino cutting class before starting out on their own, there is almost no way to avoid a lino cutting injury when you are starting out. I have had many!
I was really impressed with the actual lino, and I love the red roller with all my heart.
As well as being a freelance illustrator I work for Ministry of Craft, running short, friendly & affordable craft courses in the Northern Quarter. We run a regular lino printing course, for any one who might be interested in trying it out! www.ministryofcraft.co.uk
Lindsey Vigurs Illustration
@lindseyvigurs on Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest