How to Carve a Two-Tone Block Print

Use this easy method for carving and printing your own block print designs.

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Materials and Tools:

image on paper
carbon or graphite paper
2 linoleum blocks
cutting tool
oil-based printing ink
smooth, heavy paper
wooden spoon or barren
canola oil


1. Find a subject, such as this spider, and draw a picture of it.

2. Create a reverse image by placing the drawing on a window with the image facing out. Trace the image on the backside of the paper. Because printing creates a reverse image, this step prevents your image from printing backwards. Note: This is very important if you have words in your picture.

3. Use carbon or graphite paper to transfer your reverse image to the first linoleum printing block. This is called the key block because it contains the most important image. In this example, it's the black outline of a spider.

4. Use the cutting tool to carve out the parts of the linoleum block that you don't want to print. Decide which parts of the image will be negative and positive. Negative (carved) is white or no ink, and positive (uncarved) is where the ink will print.

5. Print a proof of your image using water-based ink. Ink the block with a brayer and lay a piece of paper on the block. Rub the back of the paper with a wooden spoon or a barren.

6. Lift the paper off the key block. If the image is good, lay the paper image side down on block number two and press. This transfers the key image to the second block. Remove the paper.

7. Carve what you don't want to print. In this case, the second block is used to create a background, so carve out the entire area where the spider image is.

8. Put guide marks on the paper with a pencil so that you print the image straight and centered.

9. Using oil-based ink, first ink and print block number two, the background. Wait for it to dry.

10. Ink and print the key block, ensuring it lines up exactly with the image from block number two.

11. Clean up any ink mess with canola oil.

12. When the print is dry, watercolor the spider image.

13. Sign, title and date your work using pencil.

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