So what’s the difference between linocut and woodcut? I’ve been excited by relief printmaking since my time at university, I first saw some great artists work using the various mediums available, Hokusai’s beautiful woodcut prints of Mount Fuji for example!
As a person with no previous idea of the printmaking process prior to university, I trusted my university tutors and followed their advise. I was intent on having a go at the relief printing process and found that the materials they had available within the school of art were mainly focused towards linocut printmaking. This was where my love affair with lino-cutting began, and I really do love it. It has so many amazing qualities that make it a great choice for anyone looking to get into block printing. And it’s a great starting point for any beginner. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder about the other options for printing materials which would be available to me.
So I decided to buy some woodblocks and started carving and printing them.
Here is a brief run down and my thoughts on the differences (and similarities) of working on lino and wood block for printmaking.
Types of Wood
For woodcut printmaking, the material I started with seemed to have multiple names to describe it. The most common being Side-grain, as it describes the way that the slice of wood is down along the side of the grain rather than as a cross-section (across the grain). Since I started to use it I’ve also heard it referred to as soft grain wood, tulip (tulipwood), magnolia or birch. This is honestly one of the better woods I’ve used whilst printmaking, it’s soft finish and smooth surface when the ink is applied is beautiful.
Disclaimer: Photograph by DrawInkPress
End-grain is essentially the alternative to side-grain where the wood is cut across the grain.
End-grain is typically taken from very dense hardwood like Boxwood or Lemonwood. Boxwood is more expensive because it’s less commonly available, but lemonwood appears to be a very well respected and slightly more affordable alternative, which is what I opted for whilst experimenting. Overall outcome wasn’t too bad. Some various between prints with the grain causing some miss printing on occasion, but in all not too bad.
Plywood is also used frequently for woodcut prints by many artists. I regret I haven’t tired this medium a great deal as I find the softness of the material is too malleable and I prefer to carve into something with a little more bite and resistance. In my personal opinion I don’t find ply very rewarding In terms of achieving the finer details within a piece, and when working on certain delicate areas I found the plywood would chip and flake off on occasion which was very disheartening. I would suggest a high amount of patience is required when Working fine details into a print across the grain, In order to get the results you desire. Plywood is however the cheapest option a printmaker could opt for, especially those looking to achieve bolder prints with simpler forms and less finer details. That being said I’ve not had much chance to use it frequently so am happy to be challenged again in the near future.
Photograph: Adam Evans
Types of Lino
Traditional Lino & Synthetic Lino (Linoleum)
I am a huge fan of Lino printing, I think that the fact you are not having to consider the direction of the wood grain is an enormous advantage as you can freely make a variety of marks in any direction you like. The resistance of the material against the cutting edge of your tool is enough to provide you with better control without slipping easily and making fewer errors. It’s perfect for the smaller, much more detailed pieces. I would say traditional Lino is great for achieving both fine details as well as the bigger, bolder block prints.
To conclude, at this stage I would have to say that both Traditional Lino and side grain are very strong contender. Lino however, is still in a winning position overall. It’s a really accessible material to start using for any printmaker out there. It’s relatively cheap and it’s also easy to find in your local art shop. If anyone did have an interest in experimenting with Wood then side grain would be the best option to start with 100% recommend. It’s great to apply your design onto, carve into and work with.
I will be continuing my thoughts, theories and processes in part 2 of my blog. Where I will be comparing and contrasting types of printing paper. Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing the results.