A lot of questions I receive are about the ‘right’ tools, ink, paper, linoleum or printing method. In my opinion there is no ultimate manual for linoleum carving and printing, because there are so many variables. Mainly it is a process of trial and error to get to know which materials and tools fit you best for the specific work you personally would like to make. Experiment to get experience and not being afraid to make ‘mistakes’. It’s difficult to explain in text online for example the amount of ink on your brayer, how it sounds and feels… Even though I thought it might be useful to let you see which tools and materials are my personal favourites. So I made a picture showing them all on my desk and this corresponding list with explanation.
Little stamps I use to make with the mounted lino on small wooden blocks from Essdee.
For smaller linoleum works up to A4+ size (12.60 x 9.06 inch) I often use soft lino from Essdee. The material is easy to carve and also suitable for reduction technique.
With A3 and A3+ (11.81 x 16.54 inch) size works I prefer Pinboard linoleum from Forbo with hessian back. It’s a thicker material and easier to handle and stay flat on this size with printing than the flexible soft cut.
Larger works like A2 size (16.54 x 23.39 inch) I mainly make on Walton Soft from Forbo with hessian back. I do and did use other blocks as well for experiment, but these are my favourites at the moment.
I once started with a kit from Abig which contains a wooden handle with interchangeable heads in different sizes and shapes. There are several brands who sell these sort of starter kits. Over time I supplemented this with Pfeill linoleum cutters in specific sizes. Myself I mainly use the ‘U’ shape gouges, because the ‘V’ shapes are rarely suitable for my personal style and technique.
The variety of brayers comes with the variety of the sizes of blocks I make. Smaller brayers for small works and bigger ones for larger works. Mine are generally from Essdee but that’s because they are available at our local art and supplies store which I feel it’s important to support your locals and not just only buy online…
I use waterbased block print ink from Talens mainly for little stamps.
For lino pieces up to A4+ size I often use waterbased Creall Lino block printing ink, especially when making pieces with a larger print run.
With multi colour or reduction prints I like to work with Schmincke Aqua linoleum print ink.
For larger pieces I mainly use Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash relief inks. They are oil-based, but provided with an emulsifier, which allows them to be safely cleaned with soap and water. So you have no solvents required to remove the ink. I often mixed them with a few drops of drying time accelerator from the same brand.
I have a small baren from Essdee and a larger one from Speedball. I personally find these extremely useful for printing without a press.
It’s really difficult to say something useful about paper. It is of course all about personal taste. But also inseparable from the linoleum material, technique and ink you use. I personally prefer a bit more heavy weight paper like 184 lb.
I have a small basic etching press, from Arts & Crafts Holland, suitable for works up to A4 size. A press can be very useful for making prints in larger editions. But to be honest, it took me quite a while (and frustration) to be able to work with it pleasantly and well. It depends entirely on the correct setting: the amount of pressure combined with the specific ink and paper. Besides I use an ABIG hand lino press for single colour prints. In addition, I have a large old etching press for printing large linoleum blocks. There’s no brand name mentioned on the large press.