How to Lino Print on Fabric: Step by Step Guide

If you want to try out block printing on fabric at home, you may have lots of questions on the best way to lino print — “Which ink should you use?”; “Will it be washable?”; “Should you use a roller?” Getting answers to all these questions will make it easier to get an even and crisp print. 

First, to lino print on fabric, prep your fabric, then create compelling designs and transfer them onto a lino block. Cut your lino for the first time and then ink it. Once the ink is completely dry, use an iron to permanently set the design and clean up for the best results.

How to Lino Print on Fabric

The art of lino printing requires steady movement and careful hand-eye coordination. As a beginner, it may take you a while to figure out the best types of blocks, choosing the right fabric, inks, and other supplies. This guide will give step-by-step instructions on how to lino print on fabric and also get you started on all the resources you need, so read on.

If you are trying to find out different ways to use fabric, you can also read our article on Step-by-Step: How to Watercolor on Fabric.

Prep Your Fabric

First, you need to iron your fabric on the highest heat setting without steam. Then, wash the cloth hot and dry to make it easier to work with and remove any wrinkles.

Pre-washing is necessary because it removes the sizing that might interfere with your ink. It should be done on the highest possible heat before line drying or tossing in the dryer. 

Cut small pieces of the fabric before printing. Working with smaller pieces is more manageable and requires less space to be more intentional with your pattern placement. Also, remember to prepare the working area by laying down butcher paper or newsprint. 

Create Compelling Designs 

Creating detailed designs on the lino can be difficult and time-consuming, especially if you are a novice. You will need a basic skill level plan and start with simple designs like ValenciaOpens in a new tab.. Sketch the design you would like to print on a piece of paper as mistakes made on a lino block are difficult to remove. If you made some very grave mistakes, you can also read our article on 6 Best Things To Do With Old Lino Blocks.

The block will be a mirror image of your design; therefore, it will help shade regions that will print in your sketch. You can shade the entire shape first and then remove the details with an eraser. Keep the design at least 1/8th away from the edges to give room for repeats.

This step can be time-consuming but requires patience and a lot of practice. You can buy an extra piece of lino, which you can use to create various shapes from angular to curvilinear. Start by carving the smallest carving tip to create a border around your design, then gradually build up to a larger carving tip.

Transfer the Design Onto a Lino Block

Once you have your design on paper, transfer it to a lino block using transfer paper or carbon paper. By placing carbon paper between your sketch and the lino, you can draw the design, and it spontaneously transfers to the lino. 

Rub a granite pencil on the opposite side of the sketch, trace your design, and finally transfer it to your linoleum block. Alternatively, you can sketch directly onto the lino, which will save you time moving your print.

Cut Lino for the First Time

As with anything new, start with a simple design and get a feel of the technique. 

  • Ensure that your blades are sharp as sharp tools make all the difference. Tapered edges make it easy to carve fine lines. McClain’s Printing Supplies have instructionsOpens in a new tab. on how you can sharpen them with a stone, leather honing block, and honing compound. 
  • Basic shapes printed in repeats and in multiple colors often make the best designs. Try straight lines, short and long lines, little stabs, and jerk the tool sideways as you cut. 
  • Use a lino cutter to carve away spaces y around your design. Remember, you cut away what you don’t want to print and clear all the cut-out bits from the lino.
  • What you cut away are the white parts, while what you leave will be black. Since the printed surface will be black, if you have any letters, cut them out backward. Make shallow cuts until you get used to cutting. 
  • Also, avoid patterns with fine lines, especially when carving on soft blocks as they don’t hold details very well.
  • For your first linocuts, aim for clear-cut lines and shapes. Also, you can try close together lines and those that go across one another. If you cut too shallow, the ink will fill up too fast, and on the other hand, if you cut too deep, you risk cutting a hole in the lino, which could be a disaster. 
  • Cutaway two squares of lino using a narrow blade if you want a little texture within a cut-out area. You’ll also find out that a broader blade gets the job done faster, and there will be fewer ridges to clear away between your cuts. 
  • With time, you will see what other techniques you can employ for various designs.

Whether you’re proficient or a beginner, it’s not uncommon for your hand to slip and accidentally carve an area you had not intended. You can also make many other mistakes, but it’s part of the learning process. 

If you carve a mistake, you may tweak the image or work around the error. The worst-case scenario would be starting all over again – which can happen sometimes. However, before you toss that block, here are two ideas that will help you deal with a mistake:

  • Glue a section of lino into the area you unintentionally carved. Get a scrap lino block and carve out an identical piece and glue it in with clear super glue. Surround the area with a blue painters tape to protect it from any glue that might fall on it accidentally. 

Put a little glue on the lino block where you want to make the repair and the scrap you are putting in the hole. Press the piece firmly in and wipe away any glue. If the lino pieces are tiny to handle, you can use tweezers.

Weigh down the lino block with something weighty and let it sit until it’s dry, and sand the repaired area with fine sandpaper to achieve uniformity with the rest of the pattern. Leave the tape on when sanding to cushion the surrounding areas.

  • Carve a second lino block to print over a mistake. As your layers in a reduction print start to add up, you could carve out a particular area too soon. What you need is get a second block and throw that in the mix. Besides, combining two blocks for one print produces a wide range of work. 

Ink the Lino

As a beginner, the easiest way to ink the lino is to use a single color. However, other techniques for making multicolor linos, such as the jigsaw method, reduction method, and multiple block techniques. The challenge with these techniques is ensuring that each of the blocks is correctly labeled to ensure each printed layer lines up nicely. Here are the steps:

  1. To start, once you cut the design, you can print it using one color. Black is the most common color because of its sharp contrast to white backgrounds.
  2. Prepare your working area and wear an apron since things are about to get messy. You can use oil-based inks as they don’t dry out quickly, although they are harder to cleanout. Besides, the ink needs to have a certain stickiness and consistency before printing. 
  3. Next, prepare your lino for printing and degrease it with white spirit or warm soapy water to ensure the ink spreads evenly. Clean the edges of the lino and remove any loose bits and use a wet cotton bud to remove ink in undesired areas of your lino.
  4. A single-color linocut doesn’t need detailed outlines. Pour a little amount of ink into a shallow container or a Plexiglass. Use a brayer to spread the ink from the repository to the block and coat it evenly to achieve a lovely velvety texture. The ink rolls out quickly with a sponge roller than with a hard roller as it absorbs more ink. Clean your lino before each print and cut off excess areas if possible.
  5. Ensuring that the colors are correctly aligned takes practice. Rehearse the printing technique on the test paper to start with if you need to make some changes to the linocut. Printing on paper also allows you to “prime” the block.  
  6. If you want a more reliable way to print, you can make a registration sheet with outlines of where to place the lino block and where to place the paper. Put the inked lino in place and carefully align one corner of your paper with your marks and gradually drop it down. 
  7. When you are ready, put a thin press blanket or lay a flat piece of old cloth underneath your fabric. Place some paper under your fabric in case the ink bleeds through—mark where you will place the lino block on the fabric with blue painters tape.
  8. Roll the ink on the block and stamp your fabric. 
  9. Exert pressure using a clean ink roller, barren, or a rolling pin. You can also rub the block in a circular motion with a spoon.
  10. Leave the ink to cure for at least ten days, but if you live in areas with cold weather, you can leave it for longer. You can also heat set your design if the choice of your ink requires it. Manufacturers of oil-based inks claim that heating is not necessary. 

But if you are using water-based inks, you must heat set the fabric before washing, usually by ironing. Drying can also be affected by the temperature and humidity of the studio. Don’t worry if some of the stamps don’t yield much ink. Besides, the small imperfections are part of the beauty of lino printing. 

However, if you want a more uniform repeat, use a water-soluble marking tool and ruler to mark your fabric and create a consistent motif.

VIDEO: Here is a video that demonstrates the lino printing process. WATCH – How to Print on Fabric: Lino Block Printing.

Stitch Craft Create

Here are some tips for printing the linocut:

  • Try not to move when transferring the linocut to the fabric to avoid smudging.
  • Remove the paper from your linocut slowly to reveal the design.
  • Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.
  • Leave excess space to tape the edge of the work to minimize movement.
  • Re-use the linocut by applying more ink.

Set the Ink

Once the ink on the fabric is completely dry, which can take two days or a week, use an iron to set your designs permanently. Sandwich your cloth between two materials and press iron each piece for five minutes.

Sew your pattern according to the design instructions. You may notice that the look of your printing softens with time. If you want to conserve the look of your printed textile, wash it by hand and hang it to dry.  

Clean Up

If you need to re-use the lino block again, clean it using soapy water. Clean your cutting tools carefully and store them in good condition. Take note of the washing instructions if you want your prints to last.

Always wash the fabric according to the instructions on the ink bottle, but if in doubt, use a mild soap, cold water, and a gentle water setting.

Tools and Materials Needed

There are different tools and materials that you’ll need to start lino printing. Most of these resources are inexpensive, and you will find them in art stores.

Linoleum 

It would help if you had a linoleum printing blockOpens in a new tab., which is the primary tool in lino printing. There are two main types of lino blocks that you will encounter, which are available in different sizes and thicknesses. There is a soft lino with no backing and tougher lino with a hessian backingOpens in a new tab.

Both types offer high-quality prints. Lino printing blocks are available in different sizes, including A3, A4, A5, and A6 blocks, which are 3.2mm thick. You should start printing with a lino block about your hand (about 4 x 6 inches) as a beginner. Large lino blocks can be challenging to manage and weaken in the middle causing cracks in your pattern.

Also, wood and traditional blocks can be hard to cut through; however, they offer more control and detail. If you are printing by hand, a soft lino with backing is more flexible to curve on to give you quality print. 

Speedy Carve, Speedy-Cut, Speedball, or Blick E-Z printing blocks are the most common brands you’ll probably see around when looking for block printing supplies.

A linoleum block includes thick particleboard that stabilizes the linoleum and keeps it from bending and snapping. The lino only makes up a tiny part of the lino block. On the other hand, Presses work well when you glue sheets of plywood together.

Cutting Tools for Lino Printing

There are different tools for lino printing, but what will determine what you pick is the amount of money you are willing to spare and the available tools. The most basic cutting tool is one with a plastic handle that holds various shapes of blades.

As you get serious, you might opt for cutting tools with wooden handles as they’re more comfortable to handle for extended periods. You can purchase multiple handles, so you don’t have to stop and swap the blades.

Here are some lino cutting tools you may want to consider – Essdee 3 into 1 lino cutterOpens in a new tab. and Barren kit (x10 cutter styles) would make an excellent choice. Red-handled cutting tools will allow you to change the size of the cutting tool.

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Additionally, there are many types of cutting tools, and the ones you choose are a matter of preference. Each blade gives you a different style to cut from narrow, deep, shallow, and broad designs.

Beginner lino sets include a few blades, but you can purchase them separately. Differently shaped lino blades will offer different types of cuts in the lino.

Papers

The best printing papers when it comes to lino printing are heavy-weight papers that range from 250gsm+. The weight stops the printing paper from warping for the best results. The printing papers are explicitly for watercolor painting and printmaking.

Here are some sought-after brands that you can check with your supplier: Fabriano 300gsm paper, Somerset 300gsm paper, Fabriano Rosaspina, Zerkall Printing Paper, Snowdon Printing Paper, and Hosho Japanese Paper.

Printing Ink

Screen printing ink is more economical and completely washable. You will find different types of paints in the supplies store that include oil-based and water-based inks. Pick the ones that don’t need heat setting, wash thoroughly, and don’t stiffen the fabric too much. Also, pay close attention to brands when printing on fabric. 

Oil-Based Inks or Water-Based Inks?

When shopping for ink, you will come across oil-based and water-based inks. Some come in big tubs, and others come in squeeze tubes, which can make it confusing on precisely what you need. Here’s what you need to check out when choosing printing inks.

Oil-Based Inks

You can print oil-based inks on fabric or paper. They are denser, stickier, and thicker than water-based inks. They stick well on paper to give you beautiful and textured print. However, sometimes they can dry up in the tube and get finished up quickly hence not economical.

Depending on the thickness of the ink, oil-based inks can take a long time to dry. Thus, if you have a project that you need to finish quickly, they are not the way to go.

Water-Based Inks

Water-based inks can be printed on fabric or paper, although they work best on the material. They have a liquid consistency and can be challenging on paper because of the ink’s slipperiness. They are also a little pricier than oil-based inks. However, you won’t have to worry about smudging your project for the next few days. 

Make sure you check the labels, whether it indicates its “water-based /screen printing ink,” “heat set,” and “for fabric.” If the instructions state “Block Printing Ink” and nothing else, then it’s most likely for paper and may not hold up well through the wash.

Common Lino Printing Inks

Caligo Safe Wash Inks are oil-based and make an excellent choice for printing on fabric. They come in a variety of hues and are readily available online. As a beginner, you can start with black tubes, white, and their processed colors. However, oil-based inks take longer to dry if you stack layers of ink on each other. 

After getting used to these colors, you can try different ink modifiers or use extenders to make the inks more transparent. Permaset Aqua InksOpens in a new tab. also work well; they are colorfast and easy to use. They are also easy to wash away with soapy water. Speedball Fabric Block Printing ink is high-quality ink and has excellent opacity.  

There is a wide variety of water-based inks for lino printing on paper. SchminckeOpens in a new tab. is an excellent water-based fabric ink that doesn’t dry too fast while you’re rolling it out. Besides, it doesn’t require any modifiers and works well right out of the tube. 

Additionally, it creates sharp prints and is wipe-resistant after fifteen minutes. It’s available in a variety of shades, as well as metallic colors. Akua IntaglioOpens in a new tab. is a soy-based permanent ink that is inexpensive, easy to work with, and works alright when applied in thin layers. You can use it with a brayer for relief, monotype, and collagraph printmaking techniques.

The downside of water-based inks is that you must heat-set the fabric before washing. Additionally, they are also expensive, and you’ll need to roll the ink on the block carefully to avoid leaving gap marks. 

There are two main benefits of using screen-printing textile inks on linocuts. First, they are washable when the heat is set and come in a wide range of colors. 

Choosing a Fabric 

There are many types of printing materials out there. Not all materials are created equal, and here is what you need to know before shopping:

  • What is the end use of the fabric?
  • Will the fabric get wrinkly?
  • Is it tightly woven?
  • How coarse is the fabric?
  • Does it need to be durable?

Different fabrics can drastically affect the outcome of your lino printing. Linen and cotton/linen blends work well since they have natural fibers and offer a natural look. Additionally, bamboo, hemp, polyester, and in some cases, nylon works well with plant-based inks. Blank, unprinted fabrics are best to work with as the ink absorbs evenly.

It’s necessary to understand the difference between natural and synthetic fibers and what fabrics you need to avoid. Synthetic fabrics include polymer-based materials such as nylon and other artificial substances. 

Some fabrics include natural and synthetic blends, which helps synthetic fabrics perform better. However, it’s good to stay away from synthetic materials – they won’t give you excellent results.

Similarly, wools and cotton fleece are fuzzy and terrible for lino printing. They gunk the ink and make it difficult to see your design. Cotton and polyester blends are stretchy knit fabrics that work well and offer surprisingly excellent results. 

Another important consideration when selecting a fabric is where you shall use the final product. For instance, if you’re making a scarf, you don’t need to choose an upholstery fabric, but a dark busier print would make an excellent choice for a chair in a high traffic area. You can incorporate lighter colors for washable pillowcases.

Other Supplies You’ll Need for Lino Printing

There are other supplies that you’ll need when lino printing. They include: 

  • A smooth surface for rolling out ink
  • A brayer 
  • A barren or anything smooth you can use to apply pressure like a spoon
  • A drying rack
  • Pellet knife

Safety Tips 

Practice safety when carving your block. Always snip away from your hands and body. It would help if you were careful not to cut your fingers as you push the lino blade. Also, carve on a non-slip surface like a rubber mat for more control.

Keep antiseptics and band-aids around if you cut yourself, as a tiny cut can end up bleeding a lot. Apply pressure on a wound and run it under hot water before applying antiseptic with a cotton swab.

Lino cutting is an excellent activity for kids who are mature enough to use sharp objects. But keep an eye on them!

Final Words

Lino printing on fabrics is a popular and rewarding art of printmaking. Although it looks complicated, linoleum blocks are much easier to cut than wood and simple to make designs. Lino blocks are easy to obtain specific effects to offer prints that look bold and powerful. 

Many artists find working with lino changes their style, from flimsy to more confident lino prints. Lino printing is not as complicated as it sounds. To lino print on fabric, follow the steps discussed in this article.

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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