DIY Holiday Gift Idea: Custom prints with linoleum blocks

Graphic Tees and funky prints on fabric are all the rage; but you may not realize how easy it is to customize your own gear for some ultra-chic gift-giving.

Linoleum block printing is a very economical, fun way to personalize your gifts, holiday cards, and even your own stuff. It's also a cool way to get those creative juices flowing. And it's easy! I remember carving linoleum blocks in grade school (admittedly, back then they'd heat the blocks up for us so they were easier to carve). Here are some very simple instructions for making your own linoleum blocks:

Linoleum block (available at most craft stores. Buy a big piece instead of pre-cut to save $$)
Carving utensils (I really like Speedball's set)
Pencil and pen
Tracing or tissue paper

Draw your design on the tracing paper (see Better Farm's logo in red, above). This design will be transferred face-down onto the block, which means we have to get the design backwards. To do this, flip the paper over and lay it on top of your linoleum.

With a pen, go over the outline of your design hard enough to leave indents on your linoleum. As you can see in the photo below, all my pressing cut the backwards "B" out of the Better Farm logo. Once you've created your backwards design on the block, it's time to start carving. Select a blade appropriate for the job: In my case, I used the widest blade because I was carving most of the block away. Remember, you'll be cutting away the negative space so the only raised part of the linoleum left is what will be appearing on your print.

Once you've done this, you're ready to bring on the paint. Slather some onto your linoleum (a roller works best, but feel free to improvisee), stamp the print onto your fabric or wall, and you're good to go (be sure to let everything dry thoroughly before touching!).


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.