Linocut vs Woodcut (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Linocuts & Woodcuts, & How To Choose Between Them)

As an art enthusiast, I believe that purchasing a piece is not only about its appearance but also the story behind it. That’s why I’m excited to explore two highly sought-after printmaking techniques: linocut and woodcut.

Join me on this journey as we delve into their unique qualities, compare their pros and cons, and ultimately help you determine the perfect fit for your art collection.

Definition of Linocut & Woodcut

As a printmaking enthusiast, I find linocut and woodcut to be two captivating techniques that offer endless creative possibilities. Although both methods involve carving an image into a surface and printing it onto paper, they differ significantly in terms of materials and techniques.

Linocut, for instance, requires a soft, rubbery material called linoleum, which can be easily carved with specialized cutting tools. Using these tools, artists carve away the areas of the linoleum that they do not want to print, leaving the raised areas to create their desired design. Once the carving is complete, they apply ink to the raised surface of the linoleum using a roller or a brayer. Then, they carefully press a piece of paper onto the inked surface to transfer the image onto the paper. It’s a straightforward process, and the resulting print is a mirror image of the carved design.

Print with Me: Linocut Basics | Blake Ballard

In contrast, woodcut involves carving an image into a block of wood. This is a more challenging process, as wood is a harder material that requires more specialized carving tools. To create the design, the artist must carve the image in reverse onto the surface of the wood block, leaving the raised areas to create the design. They then apply ink to the raised surface of the wood block using a roller or a brayer, and finally press a piece of paper onto the inked surface to transfer the image onto the paper. Like linocut, the resulting print is a mirror image of the carved design.

Woodcut Process

While both techniques involve relief printing* and the transfer of an image onto paper, linocut and woodcut produce distinct results. Linocut is best suited for creating bold, graphic prints with clean lines, while woodcut can produce more detailed and textured prints with a greater range of tonal values. Ultimately, the choice between linocut and woodcut comes down to the artist’s personal preferences and the desired outcome of their work.

* In relief printing, the artist carves or etches a design into a block or plate, leaving the raised or uncarved areas to be inked and printed. Then, the inked surface is pressed onto paper or another printing substrate, producing a mirrored image of the design.

Relief printing includes a variety of techniques, including woodcut, linocut, and letterpress printing. These techniques have been around for centuries, making relief printing one of the oldest forms of printmaking. Its versatility has been utilized by artists and commercial printers alike, resulting in a wide range of beautiful and unique prints.

History of Linocut & Woodcut

Let me tell you about the fascinating history of linocut and woodcut. These printmaking techniques have been around for centuries and have been used to create stunning artworks and reproductions.

Relief printing, which is the process of carving a design into a surface and printing it onto paper, was first used in ancient China with woodblock printing. As the technique spread throughout Asia and Europe, it became increasingly popular for producing books, playing cards, and prints for home decoration during the Renaissance.

In the early 20th century, linocut was invented by Franz Kolbe, a German artist who was seeking a more affordable and easier-to-carve alternative to woodcut. Linoleum proved to be an ideal material, and the technique quickly gained popularity among artists looking to create bold, graphic prints.

The British linocut movement of the 1920s and 1930s, led by Claude Flight and Cyril Power, emphasized the accessibility of linocut as a medium for affordable art. Meanwhile, American artists associated with the WPA used linocut to celebrate the American landscape and working class during the Great Depression.

Today, linocut and woodcut are still beloved printmaking techniques, used by artists all over the world. Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, and Kiki Smith are just a few contemporary artists who have explored the possibilities of these techniques, creating intricate and stunning prints that showcase the beauty and versatility of relief printing.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Linocut

As an avid printmaker, I have explored the world of linocut and discovered its unique advantages and disadvantages. Let me break it down for you:


  • Firstly, linocut is incredibly easy to use. Unlike woodcut, it requires less pressure to carve, and its softness allows for a smoother experience, making it perfect for beginners.
  • Secondly, it’s affordable! Linoleum is much cheaper than wood, which means it’s a great option for artists who want to experiment with printmaking without breaking the bank.
  • Lastly, linocut is incredibly versatile. It can produce a wide range of designs, from simple block prints to more intricate designs with multiple colors.


Unfortunately, there are a few limitations to using linocut.

  • Firstly, it’s not ideal for creating fine details or textures. Because linoleum isn’t as durable as wood, it can be difficult to carve intricate designs into the printing surface.
  • Secondly, the softness of linoleum means it has a shorter lifespan compared to woodcuts, which can be a drawback for artists who want their prints to last a long time.
  • Lastly, linoleum is only available in certain sizes, which can limit the artist’s ability to create larger prints.

All in all, while linocut has its limitations, it remains a popular and accessible printmaking technique for artists of all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, linocut can help you create stunning prints with ease and affordability.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Woodcut

Woodcut is a technique that has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.


  • One of the most significant benefits of woodcut is its ability to produce intricate and textured prints that are visually appealing. Wood is a durable material that can hold finer details than linoleum, making it an ideal choice for artists seeking more intricate prints.
  • Another advantage of woodcut is the natural aesthetic quality that it offers. The texture and grain of the wood can be integrated into the print, creating a rustic and organic look that many artists find desirable.


However, woodcutting is not without its drawbacks.

  • One of the main challenges is the level of skill required to create a successful print. Carving wood demands more effort and precision than linocut, which can be daunting for beginners or those who are not comfortable with carving tools.
  • Additionally, woodcutting can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Quality woodblocks can be costly, and the necessary tools to carve them can add up quickly. Due to the level of effort and time required, woodcutting can also be more time-consuming than linocut.

Despite its challenges, woodcut remains a popular choice for artists looking to create detailed, textured prints with a natural aesthetic quality.

Collecting Linocut & Woodcut Prints

Collecting linocut and woodcut prints is a fantastic way to add unique and stunning pieces of art to your home. Before beginning your collection, it’s essential to know what makes a quality print.

Firstly, the quality of the paper is crucial. Acid-free paper can help ensure the print remains vibrant and fresh for years to come. You should also inspect the print for any signs of damage, like creases, discoloration, or watermarks.

It’s worth noting that prints can be limited or open edition. Limited edition prints are rarer and more valuable as only a small number are produced. Open-edition prints can be reproduced indefinitely, so they tend to be more affordable.

When collecting linocut and woodcut prints, there are many notable artists to consider. For instance, Albrecht Dürer is one of the most famous woodcut artists from the 15th and 16th centuries. His intricate and detailed woodcuts are highly sought after by collectors.

Henri Matisse is another famous artist famous for his brightly colored linocut prints. His work often features bold shapes and patterns, making them a perfect addition to any modern home.

Moreover, contemporary artists such as Andrea Lauren, Bryan Nash Gill, or Nick Morley are producing exceptional linocut and woodcut prints today. Exploring their work can help you discover stunning prints that can make a bold statement in your home.

Conclusion: Choosing Between Linocut & Woodcut

As I’ve explored the world of printmaking, I’ve discovered that both linocut and woodcut techniques offer their own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between them depends on several factors such as the desired level of detail, texture, subject matter, and personal preference.

If affordability and ease of use are crucial, then linocut may be the best choice. However, for those looking to create intricate and textured prints, woodcut may be worth the higher cost and level of skill required.

When collecting linocut and woodcut prints, it’s crucial to look for works that are well-executed and showcase the artist’s unique style. Some famous linocut and woodcut artists include Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Katsushika Hokusai, whose iconic pieces demonstrate the versatility and beauty of these techniques.

Ultimately, whether you choose to create or collect linocut or woodcut prints, it’s important to approach the process with experimentation and exploration. Embrace the unique qualities of each technique and push the boundaries of what’s possible to create truly one-of-a-kind works of art that inspire others.