coolest valentine on the block

Impress your friends with this two-color linoleum block print.

Linoleum Block Print Valentine
2 linoleum blocks for printing
design, carbon paper
linoleum cutting blade
super glue
printing plate

Lino blocks are cheap, come in a variety of sizes and are available at just about any art store. It’s worth spending the extra dollar or two to buy Speedball brand blocks. Speedball also makes affordable blades to cut your block.

1. Start with a simple, fun design (this one is a bit on the intricate side, but, usually, the simpler the better). I draw mine on a computer and use the two colors of ink I intend to print with (red and white) on the background color of my paper (pink).
2. After you’re done with the design, print it in reverse. For this project, I printed an outline of the red shapes, then an outline of the white ones. Define the border of the image because this will help later in lining up the blocks.
3. Sandwich carbon paper between your design print out and the first block and secure with tape so none of it moves. Trace the outlines of the shapes.
4. Starting with the finest one, use sharp linoleum cutting blades to cut away the outlines of the design. To make cutting easier, warm your block on a radiator or with an iron on low heat (be careful not to overheat the linoleum or it will blister). In especially detailed and fragile areas, use Super Glue in the cutaways to reinforce the print surface. Using progressively larger blades, cut away all the negative space on your blocks.
5. To print, use a brayer or hard rubber roller to roll out a bead of relief printing ink on a plate of thick glass (a metal cookie sheet can work, too). There are two types of ink: water-soluble (which is inexpensive) and oil-based (which is pricier). The quality of the oil ink is superior (especially for detailed prints), but it’s more difficult to clean up and takes a day or two to dry. Water-based inks will dry in an hour or so. Once the ink is even and tacky on the plate and brayer, roll it out onto your printing block. With your block facing up, line your paper up on top. Then use a hard, smooth object (I like the bottom of a tumbler glass) to burnish the paper. Carefully peel up your print and let dry.

Give it a try, ambitious DIYers. Download the full tutorial (with photos) here!

– By Quentin Lueninghoener