Sunday, September 9, 2007

Linoeum Carving: a quasi-tutorial

Okay, I don't have any pictures of me carving (to show execution) 'cause I was all by myself when I was carving, but I'll try and write out some pointers that might help you carve your own lino stamps. (I am by no means an expert; I just like doing it.) :0)

Supplies: lino block of your choice, carving handle & lino cutters (They are available at art supply stores in kits.) Pencil, medium-fine dark black marker, washable ink pad, (Stazon for mirror image carving), scrap paper, exacto blade, brayer (for large lino blocks). Optional: carbon paper.

First, you'll want to create an image. I browsed the internet looking for crow images for inspiration. I found this (and I would have bought it, but they're out of stock.) So, I simplified the image to carve. I wish I could carve that one exactly but I'll need a lot more practice...

When you're picking your image, you might want to start simply. Keep in mind that whatever you carve away will not pick up ink and will not transfer onto your paper. (Of course your image will stamp in reverse.) Have a look at your favourite stamps and consider what it would be like to carve them. Where would you leave material where would you carve away? Lino is capable of holding fine detail which is nice, but it also means every nick will show.

I drew my crow in pencil until I had something workable then I went over him with a medium-fine black marker (stamp'n'write marker). That allowed me to turn the image over and trace the dark lines with pencil (the softer the pencil the better it will transfer (I think a 3B would be ideal, but I just used a standard HB pencil.)

You can print your image out if it is simple enough and trace it on the back with pencil--put it on a light table or tape it on a bright window for maximum traceability. Or use tracing/carbon paper over it. First I check to see if my lino block is free of imperfections. If there's a nick, turn it over or use a fresh piece.

Then you put the tracing onto the lino (pencil side down against the lino block) and rub the back (either with an eraser or by scratching pencil lines on it.) If you have carbon paper it's easier, but I've never used it... You can also draw straight onto the lino if you're very confident. (which I am NOT) ;0). I'm sure I've made this sound much more complicated than it is in practice, but I wanted to include as many pointers as possible. It really is intimidation free, since you can erase and start over again or pick the supplies that will make it a breeze.

It's also exciting that you can make inverted images, or mirror images, of stamps you already have. You can do this with the lino stamp you carve--as I have in this picture:

or you can stamp a stamp you already have onto the lino. I suggest Stazon ink, since it won't smudge very much when you carve. Just stamp it onto your piece of lino, let it dry, then carve away! If you sell your cards/projects you may want to consider the copyright of some images, but I'll leave your ethics up to you ;0)

Once you've transfered your image, you can begin to carve. As you can see in this picture of the partway carved crow below, I start with a fine cutter (No.1 V-shaped fine-line cutter.) Click on the pic for a detailed look:

Go around your lines and try to keep even pressure for a steady line. What works for me is to think a little ahead (sounds weird, but if I am doing a curved line I try to feel in my mind what the curve will feel like as I execute it and then I carve). Kind of like a tennis swing or batting in baseball (though I suck at sports, haha). Imagine the feeling of the 'follow through' and carve.

You'll want to carve away from yourself (for instance away from your hand that's holding the lino) for two reasons: first, it's easier to get the right pressure and to follow through with your lines; second: you aren't going to cut your self if you slip (Those blades are sharp!).

You'll also want to carve away from your image, so you don't slip and cut into it. Using the fine cutter around your image leaves you a little leeway to work away from so you don't end up with stuttered edges.

I hold the blade at what I would say is a 45% angle, but you'll find what feels right for you...You can use the blades on their sides too (so instead of cutting a "u" groove you leave a flatter surface.)

After I'm done carving (and during), I blow the bits away to make it easier to carve and to make the image stamp more clearly. To make sure I have a good clean image, I stamp it out and then go back and carve away whatever has registered that I don't want to show (bits I missed). I suggest inking it quickly (as you would with repeated normal use) to see which bits are too high.

Which linoleum to use & storing your lino stamps:

Here is a good tutorial that might pick up some of the things I left out. I want to try the lino with the wooden block . (Seems like it's be more durable.) However, I love the butter-like quality of the "Speedy cut" lino. I'm torn about which one to recommend: I imagine if you're just starting out, that you might want a lino that is super easy to carve into, but it has it's drawbacks: it's easy to nick it (even your fingernail can put a mark where you didn't want one) and it's less durable. As you can see in the photo above, I've stored my stamps with caution. There's carpet tape (or heavy-duty double-sided tape) under the stamps to keep them from shifting and damaging.

Here are some links to tools & other tutorials on lino carving:

Tools for carving

Here's some linoleum types that I want to experiment with

Carving for kids (I like the simple approach of this)

An easy tutorial that is a whole lot simpler than mine, hehehe.

Another awesome tutorial with clearly defined (numbered steps.)

A detailed and professional tutorial with easy transfer methods.

Another funky tutorial.

ETA: An amazing tutorial by Geninne on Geninne's Art Blog

Hope this is useful to anyone who wants to try carving their own lino stamps. It really is easier than I make it sound. :0)


EDITED TO ADD: Here's a great Quick Lino Stamp YouTube Video by Nielle


Corie said...

Oh my this is so fantastic -- you are truly talented.

Melissa McCarthy said...

Thank you so much Corie! I love all you awesome blogger people! SO fun to have cyber-friends. :0) *grins* Mel

Ijsbeer said...

Even with a tutorial there is no way I can make that! It takes a lot of talent which I don't have in that direction. Awesome stamp and prints. Really really cool. You should use it too decorate an Edgar Allen Poe poem if you like them:)

Psst; let me know if you will be a) making stamps to sell 2) ever make a polar bear stamp so I can start saving money!!

Melissa McCarthy said...

Hi Ijsbeer,

Ya, I love Edgar Allen Poe. Thanks, that's a great idea.

I'd love to design stamps eventually, but don't have the capital to invest in having them produced. (I'd have to find a lino that wears better; the stuff I have currently is too soft to ship.

Eat cake graphics has the cutest polar bear I've ever seen, though, and the prices are super reasonable, especially if you buy unmounted stamps. The bear is in their stamp section in the bear category:

I'll be making a card with him soon, so you can see him. :0) Mel

P.s. If you want any tips on how to mount your own stamps to save money, just let me know and I'll post a tutorial. :0)

Kim Etherington said...

Wow, see this is why you should have a blog and me not.. you are artsy creative.. I just make cards. You're so talented!!

Melissa McCarthy said...

You're TOO modest sweet pea! (and I gots the time, no kids muhahaha ;0) mel

Anonymous said...

What amazing designs - I'd love to see more handcarved stuff!! You are truly gifted...

...what options are out there in terms of stronger lino and/or getting images transferred to a more durable rubber?

Melissa McCarthy said...

Thanks you sweet Anonymous complimenter :0)

There are a lot of different companies online that will turn any image (that isn't copyright by someone else) into a custom stamp.

Here's one in Vancouver:

Here's another that gives free estimates:

For Lino that's more durable. I'm not 100% sure (because I haven't tried it yet, but battleship Lino turned into rubber seems to be the way to go. (I was hoping t do away with the need to have images transfered to rubber saving lots of money & time, but the more durable lino hardens in a year, so it won't stamp as nicely).
I'll put some lino varieties on my list for Santa, try 'em, and keep you posted! :0) Mel

Godelieve said...

Great tutorial, and excellent stamps!! I'm impressed!

Pamela Lykken said...

You have given good detail and Your crows are very different!