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Linocut printmaking - which is the best lino to use? Beginner friendly

I have recently realised that by now, I have pretty much used every type of linoleum block out there for my relief printmaking. I have a lot of thoughts on all the different blocks available, and I still constantly use a wide variety in my practice. Therefore, I thought my thoughts might be useful to beginners and experienced artists alike!

I primarily use three main types of lino that I will talk about in this article, but I will also mention others that I have tried or that I have some knowledge of.

Easy carve lino & Softcut Lino

Easy carve lino has been my favourite for a long time, but for multiple reasons I am trying to wean myself off of it.

Easy carve is normally dark grey, though some have other colours sometimes, and softcut lino is a beige colour. The first has a fairly nice contrast in colour when carving allowing you to predict your image, whereas the latter will stay pretty much the same, which is something to keep in mind. You can always tint the block with some watered down acrylic paint which helps with contrast. Easy carve is two-sided, while softcut is one-sided.


As the name suggests, this is the best type of lino for beginners. This is because the lino is soft and malleable, thus making it very easy to carve. As a beginner, you will most likely own beginner tools, which work so much better on this type of block. I worked with these types of tools for quite sometime, and they run the risk of making grey lino (see below) a bit crumbly (of course there are also other reasons for this). Beginner tools will get switched around rather than sharpened, so they do not cut through as easily.

Whatever tools you use, this lino is able to get very clean and stable lines.


Easy carve is fairly durable and the most malleable. The fact that it is softer does mean that it has the highest chances for being damaged out of all the blocks. When using a printing press, the lino can stretch, and even if you don't it can still stretch over time.


I have always liked how easy carve prints. As this is the most rubbery block, it is very similar to the material of may inking rollers. Rollers can therefore apply a very even layer of ink when printing easily, which makes for even prints with clear lines.

Grey hessian backed lino

This is the standard and most widely used type of lino. You can buy it in different sizes, mounted or mounted, or in large rolls.

One thing to remember is that temperature can affect this lino, and it is important that it's fresh when cutting. Therefore, this is not the best lino to stock up on. Over time, it can become a lot stiffer and it gets very crumbly when cutting, ruining any lines and marks you will try to make. Also this lino is not double sided due to the hessian backing.


I think for this lino it is recommended to have sharp professional tools, such as Pfeil tools. I found it quite frustrating to use with the standard beginner's set of tools you are able to get from many arts supply stores. Your lines risk not being clean enough, and it crumbles easily when tools aren't sharp as they can be. You can find Pfeil tools at Handprinted uk here.

When carving, there is also no contrast on the block, so you definitely have to start with a layer of watered down acrylic ink in order to see your marks.


This is the most durable type of lino, apart maybe from Japanese Vinyl. There isn't any danger for the block to be stretched when printing at all, but overtime very small details might be knocked out of the block by mistake due to it's more crumbly nature. If you are careful though I have not found this to be an issue.


Ink is also distributed in a lovely way on this block. It is more difficult to print when you are using ink pads, but relief printmaking ink is perfect. Small details and lines appear really clearly.

Japanese Vinyl

I think objectively this is the best type of block out there. It is double sided, and you are able to use each side.


This block is the toughest when it comes to carving, and the one you have to apply most pressure to. This allows for a lot of control over your lines, and with the right tools you can carve very intricate designs. The lines are also incredibly clean and sharp, similar to Easy Carve. When you carve, a black centre is revealed so it is very easy to see what you are doing.


I think this block is also the most objectively durable, as it will not stretch or crumble when printing. Designs are just as detailed after many printmaking sessions. This is the block I use when I know that design will suffer a lot of printing if I also want to use it for sketchbooks, cards or T shirts alongside prints.

Inking/ Printing

It is a bit more difficult to deposit very watery ink on this type of block. It works wonderfully with oil based ink, and you can purchase oil based safe wash ink which you can clean with soap and warm water instead. I also recommend larger and more rubbery rollers to distribute the ink evenly. Otherwise vinyl gives the most exact prints out of all the blocks, and details keep for a very long time.

I will quickly talk about what I know about other types of lino even though I have not used them consistently.

Speedy Carve

Speedy carve is the softest and most malleable lino to carve. It comes in a light pink colour and there is no contrast when you carve. You are able to carve very clean lines with it so it is most used for stamp making.


The relief printmaking technique started with woodcut, so wood was used historically. You can use plywood with the same tools as for linocut, preferably pfeil tools. Wood will definitely be the most durable block.


Transparent plastic blocks are sometimes used as since they are clear, you can place them over a drawing and not have to trace the drawing onto the block. They are the most difficult to carve even with the sharpest tools, and not very pleasant. They will be very durable too. I have never used them and I will always prefer transferring my drawing to my block of choice.

More Resources:


More Blogs by Moatzart:

Read about my printmaking technique here and here.

Read about my latest print collections here and here.

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