Design Tutorial: Get the Linocut Look in Photoshop

Design Tutorial: Get the Linocut Look in Photoshop

Think you need a bunch of supplies and expert skills to make Linocut art? Use Photoshop to create designs almost indistinguishable from real Linocut.

Linocut is a technique where you carve out an image from a piece of linoleum, then use it as sort of a stamp to make a print. This would usually require some art supplies, including linoleum, cutting tools, ink, ink roller, and paper. It’s also a little mind-twisting because instead of adding ink, paint, or pencil lead to a canvas to create an image, you have to cut away what you don’t want to show. It’s a challenging ink/print technique, but it does look really cool.

As Linocut inherently looks “vintage,” with its textures and carving marks usually showing in the final print, it’s always cool and on-trend. Use this guide to not only create a Linocut look in Photoshop, but learn a handful of super useful techniques that will serve you for life.

  • Change colors with an overlay
  • Get an introduction to Layer Masks
  • Use Smart Objects to edit and customize
  • Add texture for added depth and authenticity

It’s all about Layers and Layer Masks. This tutorial is simple and straightforward, but it shows how picking the right pieces, and showing the good parts, in the right spots, using layer masks, can elevate your multi-layered designs from flat ones by combining multiple flat designs.

You’ll be able to take the principles used here to build your own layers and masks, making simple processes look like complex works with just a few components and effects.


Create the Basic Shape Layer

We need to start by finding or creating a subject. I’m using this owl because it’s simple with bold outlines to see what we’re doing. You can also import your own art and use the steps here just the same.

Illustrations via Animashka

Open your file in Illustrator (don’t worry, we’re just copying the vectors) and have a Photoshop file ready. Select the vectors you want to use from your Illustrator file and hit Command + C to copy it. Switch to Photoshop and hit Command + V to paste. A window should pop up with paste options. Make sure Smart Object is selected.


Add the Carving Marks Layer

Find or create a file that contains strokes approximating Linocut carving marks. This one is a full page of carve-y strokes. For this specific file, I used Illustrator to remove the black background and leave only the strokes with no background. As before, I copied and pasted the vectors to Photoshop as a Smart Object.

Image via sebos

First, we’ll make the strokes the same color as the owl. Double-click the layer containing the strokes in the Layers window to open the Layer Style window. Find Color Overlay along the left side and click it. Click the color swatch next to the Blend Mode option in the middle section. This opens the Color Picker, and also the Eye Dropper. Sample the owl’s color by clicking on it in the file. Hit OK and the strokes will be the same color as the owl. You can also come back and change it, as it’s just an overlay.

Now we’ll make the Layer Mask. We want to confine the mask to the owl shape, then reveal the strokes we want to show. To do this, hold Command and click the icon for the owl layer in the Layers window. This will make an exact selection around the vectors in the Smart Object.

With the selection still live, select the layer with the strokes in it. At the bottom of the Layers window, click Add Layer Mask. You will notice all the strokes disappear, but they’re still there — just the same color as the owl.

To reveal the strokes representing Linocut marks, hit B to select the Brush tool. Adjust the size by hitting the [ key to decrease, or the ] key to increase the brush size. Right-click, option+click, or two-finger click on the artboard to bring up the brush options window. Set the Hardness slider to somewhere around 95%. This isn’t exact. Depending on the size of your brush and image, you just want it to be a bit softer than 100%, but not too fuzzy.

Now, make sure the strokes layer’s Layer Mask icon is selected in the Layers window. In the color palette at the bottom of the Tools window, the foreground color should be black, and the background color white.

In Layer Mask mode, painting with the Brush tool with Black as the foreground color will mask out the layer. That means it will disappear as you paint. With White as the foreground color, you will reveal what has been masked out. As Layer masks are non-destructive, you can go back over and over, adjusting as much as you want without worrying about deleting any part of your creation.

With that information, and with the strokes masked to the bounds of the owl’s vectors, we’ll set the Brush to paint in White to reveal more strokes. This will create the meat of the Linocut look. Be sloppy, and don’t worry about exact paths. In Linocut, so it’s nearly impossible to make perfectly clean prints. Besides, if it’s perfect you can’t tell it’s a Linocut.

Now you can zoom in to fine-tune the mask. Hit D on the keyboard to switch foreground/background colors so Black is on top in the foreground. When painting a mask, it’s handy to keep a finger on the D-key for quick switching.

Tip: reveal strokes for intentionally shaded areas, but also hit the edges to create a few carving marks. Not too much, just concentrate on the corners. It’s difficult to create crisp lines in a real Linocut, so marks here will help sell it.


More Stylistic Tips & Accoutrements

You could stop there and be just fine adding this li’l guy to other files or community newsletters. But don’t stop there if you want to add texture and color.

Select the Magic Wand from the Tools menu. Click in the space of the owl to select it. Hit Command + Shift + N for a new layer. Click the color palette in the Tools menu, and select a color from the Color Picker. Hit OK and hit Option + Delete to fill the selection with the color in the new layer.

Tip: for added depth, hit A for the move tool and use the arrow keys to move it off-center. This mimics inexact printing. 

Set the color layer to Multiply in the Blend Mode menu at the top of the Layers window. When you offset the layer, the areas where it bumps into the other layers will create the look of mis-registered ink.

Group the owl parts and the color layer by hitting Command + G. This will let us add a texture mask uniformly to the group.

Now, find an image of a grungy background or even some textured papers. I used this file for its subtle grunge that looks like the texture of ink pressed on paper. Drag it to the Linocut file, then size and position to taste.

Turn the visibility Off for the texture layer by clicking the eyeball next to it. Hold Option and click the texture layer to select it. Hold Command + Shift + I to invert the selection. Now click the owl parts group in the Layers window, make sure Black is the foreground color, and click Add Layer Mask at the bottom of the window.

Texture image via Miloje

Now, you can put any color or paper layer underneath and it will show through these simulated ink textures like a real-life Linocut.

Paper image via Only background


Looking for more design tips and inspiration? Check these out.

  • Muralist Tony Sjöman on Bringing Street Art into Graphic Design
  • 10 Spooky Designs to Get You Inspired This Halloween
  • Design Roundup: Free Fall Icons and Graphics Pack
  • Periodicals Through the Ages: The Impact of Magazine Covers on Design
  • How to Make Your Own Instagram Highlight Covers

The post Design Tutorial: Get the Linocut Look in Photoshop appeared first on The Shutterstock Blog.

Author: jaanny

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