Create unique holiday cards this season with this simple printmaking project! Printmaking is an artistic process of transferring images from one surface to another, often onto paper or fabric. For this tutorial, we are using linoleum cutters to carve a soft printing block. However, a potato cut in half could easily work as well!
- Speedball Speedy-Carve Block
- Speedball Linoleum Cutters
- Sketch Paper
- Block Printing Ink
- Bench Hook or Paper Plate
Step 1: In pencil, sketch your design on a sheet of paper the same size as your printing block.
Step 2: Transfer your design to the printing block either by hand drawing or by using a graphite transfer process. Make sure the lines are bold and visible. Tracing over the transferred lines may be necessary.
Step 3: For this block printing process, it is important to look at the image’s positive and negative space. The positive space will be printed, and the negative space will not. The negative space is the area that will be carved away. Before caving, help prevent confusion by indicating the negative space with an ‘x’ or shading it in with a pencil.
Step 4: Using a carving tool, slowly and carefully carve away the parts of the design indicated in the previous step as negative space.
Step 5: Place a small amount of ink onto a bench hook or paper plate. Roll the brayer back and forth through the ink until it’s coated and makes a tacky sound. (If the brayer slips through the ink and doesn’t roll, too much ink is on the plate. Scoop some ink away and try again.)
Step 6: Roll the ink-filled brayer onto the carved printing block. Continue until all of the positive areas are covered with ink. Use as many colors as you want!
Step 7: While the ink is wet, place a piece of paper on top of it, and gently rub the paper’s back with your palm. Be careful not to move the paper.
Step 8: Starting on one side, carefully peel the paper away from the printing block.
Ideas to take your hand printing to the next level:
- Once your image is dry, make it pop by outlining the image with a permanent marker or thin paint lines. An outline will help bring out the details of the image as well.
- Instead of using block printing ink, use fabric ink and print on solid colored tea towels. These make a great gift.
- Print the design on a 4″ x 6″ piece of cardstock to create mailable postcards.
Learning and Discussion Questions:
1. The craft of hand-blocked fabric printing has been a staple of tradition in India for hundreds of years. In the village of Bagru, it’s a trade that continues to be passed down from one generation to the next, creating printed textiles nearly the same as they did 300 years ago. Read this article to learn more.
2. Margaret Burroughs (1915–2010) was an artist, educator, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Printmaking was one of her art-making processes. Click the links below to learn more about her and her work.
Thank you to our sponsor, PNC Arts Alive!, for helping to make this video possible!