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Get the look of linoleum block prints the clean and easy way

Added on Tuesday 11th of October 2011 09:08 am EST

by Michelle Dick
Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


While linoleum block prints are beautiful, creating them is a very slow, tedious (and messy) process. We’ll show you how you can use Photoshop to turn a photo into linocut art in no time at all.

To help you turn an image into a linocut masterpiece, we’ll:


  • 1) Apply the Smart Blur filter to a new layer that will blur and redefine areas in the image.
  • 2) Give the image a chiseled look by using the Photocopy and Cutout filters.
  • 3) Lighten and invert areas of the art to create the look of linocut prints.


Linoleum blocks are pieces of thick, soft, cork linoleum, often mounted on a block of wood that is incised or carved in relief with a design, pattern, or pictorial motif. The carved blocks are then used to make prints. (You may remember creating this type of print in a grade school art class!) The process involved gouging (or chiseling) out a picture on a piece of linoleum. Then, you’d ink the surface, and place a piece of paper on it. Finally, you’d roll over the piece of paper with a brayer and then peel the paper off. What you’re left with is a reversed version of your picture, as shown in Figure A.
Although a great artistic technique, the chiseling was time consuming, messy, and prone to injuries during the gouging process. Fortunately, Photoshop can produce the same artistic results in a fraction of the time and without the need for clean up.



A brief history of linoleum block printing
Linoleum block (or linocut) printing was a 20th-century development in the art of relief cuts. A variant of woodcut blocks, linoleum blocks consist of a thin layer of linoleum mounted on wood. The design to be printed is cut as a relief into the linoleum in the same manner as wood reliefs are cut into woodcut or wood engraved stamps. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller (called a brayer), and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press.
The advantage of working with linoleum cuts is in the softness of the material and the ease with which it can be cut. The linoleum is not suitable for creating as fine lines as wood, or producing as many prints as wood because the pressure of the printing process degrades the plate faster.
The leader of the Fauvist movement, Henri Matisse, used linocut prints to produce bold decorative designs, as shown Figure B. This piece is one of a series of the linocut illustrations he created for Henri de Montherlant Pasiphaé in 1944.


Pick an image
Start by choosing a photograph. It doesn’t have to be in black and white, but it needs to have good contrast—that is, lots of shadows and highlights. To work along with us, download our example image from the URL listed at the beginning of this article, as shown in Figure C. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.) Open the image you select in Photoshop.


Duplicate and get smart
We’ll begin by duplicating the image (to protect the original) and applying the Smart Blur filter. The Smart Blur Filter will keep the sharp lines that de...


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