06 Mar What tools & materials you need to get started with block printing
It’s one of the most asked questions I get – what tools are needed to get started with block printing. And let me tell you, the beauty of block printing with soft carving materials is that you do not need expensive equipment to get started. Start simple and upgrade as you feel the need for it.
While I am all for quality tools, I truly believe that we do not need to buy all the fancy tools that are out there to get started. We are often held back by the decision of what tools we need and are afraid of buying the wrong tools. My philosophy is to get started as simple as possible and then upgrade one tool at a time once you decide that you want to keep going with block printing (which I, of course, think you will – it’s such a beautiful and meditative craft).
I did not begin with fancy Pfeil tools or VersaFine Clair inkpads. I started with a simple lino cutting set from Abig, ink pads I found in a local crafts supply store, a small selection of carving blocks, and whatever paper I had. Little by little, I extended my tools and materials based on my preferences and needs.
Before we get started, I want you to know that you can join me for a free Q&A session on block printing tools and materials exclusively for subscribers of my email list. The session will be held via Zoom on
Saturday, March 18 at 8 pm CET/Europe (3 pm EDT US Eastern/12 noon PDT US Pacific/7 pm GMT UK).
To take part, all you need to do is register, and you will receive all the necessary details straight to your inbox.
Let's have a look at the tools you will absolutely need to get started with block printing using soft carving blocks on paper:
Soft Carving Blocks
Soft carving blocks are softer and tend to be easier to carve than traditional linoleum. You will find a large variety on the market, such as Speedballs’ pink Speedy-Carve, the blue Factis Artist’s carving block, Essdee’s SoftCut Carving Blocks, Soft-Kut, or Renoir Ezy Carve, and many more. Note that some of the blocks will hold details better than others. Some might have a slight tendency to crumble while carving. When I started – I bought small pieces of various soft carving blocks and tested what I liked. My favorites in the very beginning were different from my favorites now.
I always recommend that you start with those materials that you can get locally.
Lino Carving Tools
The most economical option to get started are lino carving starter sets that consist of one handle with several interchangeable cutters, such as the linocut tools by Speedball or Abig. These tools are great for getting started with carving your own stamps from soft carving materials (and finding out if you like the process of stamp carving and block printing) without breaking the bank.
Once you got hooked to block printing you can always upgrade to more professional-grade tools.
Note: this is especially true when using soft-carving materials (which is what I do and what my recommendations are based on). My recommendation would be different for carving the harder linoleum.
Almost any ink pad will do to get you started on paper. I want you to not overthink your ink pads at this point. I would rather get you started with either what you already have at home or can get easily at your local craft store. Start with one or two ink pads to get a feeling for the process, and then you can extend your collection of ink pads over time.
You can also use block printing ink instead (and a brayer and plate to roll out the ink).
Any smooth paper or card stock will do to test your carved blocks and get your first prints. You can even get started with ordinary printer paper.
And that’s it, these are the 4 basic tools & materials you will need to start block printing. I guess I did not promise too much by saying in the beginning that I am all about starting simple.
Do you want to dive deeper?
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Where to get your block printing supplies
Are you looking for a place to buy block printing supplies? One of my favorite suppliers is Jackson’s Art – they have a lot of tools in stock (and typically restock quickly), and they send internationally to many locations.
* this is an affiliate link, which means that I might receive a compensation at no extra cost for you if you make a purchase through that link.
Jo WallerPosted at 01:18h, 11 March
Thanks Ali, I’m looking forward to the Zoom session. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been in contact.
Jo WallerPosted at 01:20h, 11 March
Hi Ali, it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up my carving tools. I’m looking forward to your Zoom session. You’re always inspiring.
Ali BaeckerPosted at 01:31h, 13 March
Jo, I am looking forward to seeing you in the Zoom session!
Deanna ColePosted at 23:45h, 18 March
I missed today’s Q&A, had company stop by. But I think everything you suggest is in your other material. Is there anything else that would be needed as a beginner?
AliPosted at 11:27h, 19 March
Deanna, you will get access to the recording of the Q&A in a couple of days. My downloadable resource guide will give you a really good overview of all the tools I use (and much more than you will need to get started). If you decide to sign up for a workshop with me, you also will get a specific list of the materials needed.