Linocut King Pen Print

By  Shirley Price Bell 

size: 7"x5"


  • Linoleum blocks, 4”x6”, three
  • Printmaking paper suitable for block printing with oil-based inks


  • Linoleum cutter set
  • Ink brayers: small, 1-1/2”; medium, 3”
  • Printer’s palette knives or putty knives
  • Oil-based inks for block printing: red, yellow, medium blue, black
  • Paint palette or surface for mixing paints
  • Printing press (or barren, shallow spoon for hand-printing)

Basic Supplies

  • scissors, ruler, pencil, carbon paper, black felt-tip marker, tape, clean cloth, alcohol or ammonia, paper towels, tracing paper, copy paper, glassine sheets

Pattern - Linocut King Pen Print

  • 1. Note: Printing this design using different background and penguin accent colors was completed over the course of a few days.
  • 2. Clean linoleum block surfaces with alcohol or ammonia. Avoid saturating cloth or getting wood mount wet.
  • 3. Cut three 4"x6" pieces of tracing paper. At top, label each yellow/orange, blue, or key/black. Mark back of blocks with numbers, letters, or words to correspond. Print out pattern. Tape pattern to key/black block; transfer with carbon paper. (Note: The pattern is for key block only. Key block serves as pattern for other color blocks.) See Photo 1.

    Photo 1
  • 4. Cut away sky area around penguin shapes on key block, then move to ear and beak shapes, using tools in linoleum cutter set. See Photo 2. Finish by removing areas to be left white. Avoid undercutting and cutting down to burlap.

    Photo 2
  • 5. Roll out small amount of black ink using 3" brayer. Print first proof on copy paper to check. See Photo 3. Cut any areas on block that need to be reduced.

    Photo 3
  • 6. When satisfied with key block, print on 4"x6" tracing paper. Print several on 5"x7" copier paper panels for proofing color blocks. (Note: Consistency of registration, or how printed images properly align, will determine success of overall print.)
  • 7. Tape tracing paper to orange and yellow block; transfer image. Cut shapes slightly larger so black ink will overlap and not leave white paper between prints. Leave bottom of block uncut as printing will occur with top portion of block only. See Photo 4.

    Photo 4
  • 8. Spread red and yellow inks on mixing surface with knife until almost touching. Without moving small brayer much side-to-side, blend inks for gradient effect. Print several practice sheets and clean block as necessary to get color gradiation in correct location. (Note: Nature gives some King Penguins yellow ears and some bibs are more orange than others; it is important to keep your edition consistent.) Proof block and make corrections.
  • 9. Repeat above procedures to create blue sky block. See Photo 5. Proof block and make corrections. See Photo 6.

    Photo 5

    Photo 6
  • 10. Print first three-block proof. Print color values from lightest to darkest, with key block last, ensuring opaque inks will cover colors beneath.
  • 11. When negative spaces have been carved down enough that brayer won't ink any high spots and registration is correct, make one three-color print on 5"x7" panel of printing paper. For example of misregistration, see Photo 7. (Note: Misregistration is caused by the orange areas on penguin heads not properly aligning with black printed areas on heads and bodies.) If no corrections are needed, begin printing edition on 5"x7" panels of printing paper.

    Photo 7
  • 12. Let prints dry. Layer with glassine sheets until ready to mat and frame.
  • Tips
  • 1. Use black permanent ink or felt-tipped pen to color areas on the key/black that will print black to help with visualization while carving blocks.
  • 2. An alternate way to transfer image from key block to other blocks is to perfectly align inked key block on next block and apply pressure.