The question of all questions: What tools do you need as a lino printing beginner? Of course, you don’t want to spend a lot of money at the beginning and certainly not on the “wrong” materials. Still, I can only advise not to go for the cheapest materials, because they have one major drawback: without practice and skill, they can frustrate you very quickly.

I have read many horror stories about lino printing in school. They all have blunt tools and hard linoleum plates in common – and sometimes bad injuries! So I think a mix of beginner and professional products is a better choice.

In this article, I’ll tell you which products you can save money on and which you’d rather spend a little more on.

Carving tools

A tool that either makes your work much easier or much more difficult. Here I would not save money and advise to rather reach for the more expensive knives that professionals also use. Because in the beginning 3 different sizes are quite enough! The cheap set blades, however, blunt very quickly and often can not be sharpened. The result: the blade slips easily, which significantly increases the risk of injury.

I find a v-shaped blade very useful for line work. My choice would be a medium size, because with little pressure you can carve fine lines and with more pressure you can carve deeper grooves! A very wide and flat blade is best for carving out larger areas, such as backgrounds. Third, you can do little wrong with a wide u-shaped blade.

Ink rollers

With ink rollers, you can go for cheaper models. I prefer soft rubber rollers, because they distribute the ink more evenly over the block. For starters, two rollers are enough, for example, one narrow and one medium width. Of course, this depends a lot on the size and detail of your design. I work exclusively in A4, so I get along very well with these sizes.


Oil-based or water-based? My advice: Always oil-based – but they should be washable! Because indeed, there are oil-based inks for which you need special cleaners. But also there are oil-based inks that you can clean very easily with water and dishwashing detergent – it works like a dream! “Caligo Safe Wash Relief Inks” from the British company Cranfield Colours belong in this category and they are the hot tip for anyone who wants to work with linoleum.

The disadvantage of water-based inks is mainly the processing time, because the water component dries very quickly. So if you want to make a lot of prints of a design, you quickly get frustrated because the mixed ink dries on the roller and the lino block which negatively affects the print result. With oil-based inks, on the other hand, you can work for hours – of course, the print doesn’t dry immediately either, so you have to keep that in mind!

The print result also differs: that of a water-based ink feels a bit rough and looks matt, that of an oil-based ink silky soft and slightly glossy.


In my experience, you don’t need expensive, fancy paper for a high-quality look and feel. I buy my paper at a print shop and have it cut to my preferred standard size of 30×40 cm. It is 160 g heavy paper, which is also used for printing flyers, magazines and other print products. The very specific one I use is called „Design Offset White“.

Note: The heavier the paper, the more difficult it is to achieve a consistent print result, especially without a press.

Lino blocks

Traditional grey lino is my favorite, often found under the name “Battleship Grey”. Brown linoleum crumbles faster, and softcut or vinyl panels cut differently. Personally, these alternatives simply lack the feel of “real” linoleum – the smell and feel matter to me.


If you do not want to invest in a press at the beginning, you can work perfectly with a wooden spoon and a Japanese baren. You need a little more time and patience, but you can create just as beautiful prints as with a press!


Two things that are not worth saving on: ink and carving tools. They make the massive difference between fun and frustration later on. On the other hand, you can compare prices for paper, ink rollers and printing tools. When it comes to lino blocks, there’s not that much difference price-wise – the combination of sharp carving tools and traditional grey lino blocks is ideal I think.

Linocut Tool Guide

Still unsure which tools and products you need for your lino printing starter kit? Just download my guide with product recommendations for linocut beginners – on 6 pages I list all the materials and tools I need to make my colorful prints – and you can do it too!

Get that Guide