Which kind of paint should I use? Oil vs. acrylic paints for linocut prints

It is fairly common for those that paint and do prints for a hobby to not pay much attention to the materials that are used. A lot of us started doing a craft because someone had some spare materials that was given to us and we decided to give it a go. However, at some point we start trying our own techniques albeit expensive it may be to get new materials. Due to this, it would be good to know before we make an investment what are we getting and if this is what we want.

Something that is true is that it is up to you as an artist on a canvas if acrylic or oil paintings are more comfortable for you and your style, but this may not be the same case when you do linocuts or lino prints, in which the ending result might be slightly different depending on which one you decide to use, based on the technique, possibly the lino cut itself, and even the pressure you decide to put in it. Picking an acrylic or an oil painting might depend in the end on how much space and money you have for the materials.

How is it to use acrylic painting for linocut printing

I got a black acrylic painting from Daler Rowney. It is a “graduate” acrylic, which means that it is an affordable version of the Daler Rowney materials for beginners and students. The results are a bit rustic, but still beautiful.

Pros and cons

As I only use one colour for prints, it is not an issue for me that this acrylic does not thin well with water. However, it does come in handy the fact that it dries so quickly.

Although I added a very thin layer of acrylic with the roller, due to the viscosity of the acrylic it would always get inside the edges of the linocut, which made some prints quite smudgy and I would sometimes have to clean the stamp in between the lines as there many excesses. However, acrylic painting is quite easy to clean so this did not prove to be so difficult.

The result is quite rough, and the acrylic would not stay in the middle of the lines creating an “empty middle area” effect in most areas. This did end up being an interesting, unintended effect. Although not what I intended, I can appreciate that it still looks interesting.

How is it to use oil painting for linocut printing

I bought the Caligo safe wash relief inks from Cranfield. It is oil based and washable, manufactured in the UK. This is, I would have to admit, a fairly more professional material than the acrylic I used for this test.

Testing my linocut with Cranfield oil painting

Pros and Cons

I was taught how to do lino print with oil painting, for which I am more accustomed to the use of this one. I was also recommended to buy this brand, for which I do not have a point of comparison with other brands.

The difference in the finishing touch is noteworthy. The lines are quite defined and there are no “empty middle areas” in this print. If there is an issue in which some ink is missing in some bits, it would be because I did not roll enough oil painting on top of the linocut, and not because of the paint I chose to use.

The only issue is, as it happens with oil painting, the amount of work in cleaning everything after using it and the amount of time it takes to dry. You need sunflower oil and some unwanted fabric to clean everything, and I would recommend to do it outdoors or somewhere easy to clean afterwards. Not only it takes a long time to clean everything, afterwards you have to find a way to get your prints to dry.

Options on how to dry your linocut prints when using oil based paintings

I used to leave the prints on the floor to dry, but at some point I stopped having space in my house for this! Due to that, I started hanging them as if they were clothes, and that seemed to reduce the drying time from 3.5 days to at least 2 days (please remember to leave them to dry in a place where you can open the windows; you do not want to be smelling oil painting throughout the whole night).

Although it seems to be much more work on the post-printing stage, the result is really worth it.

Other considerations

It is important to take into accountthe kind of paper you are using for this as well; some more porous papers will create textures even when using oil painting, so using one painting or the other is not a guarantee that you will always get nitid lines in all your prints.

Oil based painting inocut print on water colour paper

Considering that there is a wide range of not so expensive paintings, it might be worth trying both if you are not sure which finishing look you would prefer. In any case, with linocut prints you should be ready to print some tests before you achieve your best version of your linocut, so do not hesitate! Errors and mishaps in linocut prints are, after all, part of the beauty of them.

Author: laverias

...is an anthropologist interested in art history, Latin American art, and sustainable practices. You will find her trying to pick up some free furniture from the street and re-purposing old fabric. Spanglish speaker.

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