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Printmaking for everyone!

In this printmaking lesson, we take away all of the scary, expensive, or dangerous techniques and make it approachable for children of all ages and abilities to try out!

With a few simple supplies, you can create endless, colorful prints of any design you can think of.

Contrasting colors and interesting lines really make printed art pop.

When I learned to create linoleum prints in high school, we were given a hard piece of material, sharp carving tools, and an oil burner to heat the tools (with a real flame!). I carved my picture, and printed it onto probably 30 different papers, wallpapers and fabrics. We used real rubber brayers, and printing ink, and I still have them all stored in my basement. The trouble is, how do I bring that same experience to my young students for a reasonable cost? The solution; Styrofoam and acrylic paint!

Printmaking for everyone

Section 1: Prep your materials

  • Pieces of flat, thin Styrofoam. I prefer the trays that produce comes on, but I've also found that take-out containers work well, too. You have to cut out just the flattest portion.

  • A dull pencil

  • Colorful sheets of paper, wall paper samples, cardboard or fabric.

  • Acrylic paint

  • Paint palettes (plastic lids work well)

  • Foam brushes

  • *Optional- popsicle sticks to glue onto your print for easy handling and rotation.

Section 2: Making the art

  1. Carve your design by pressing the pencil into the styofoam as you draw. Keep in mind that small details might not show up, and images (and words) will print backwards. If you have a lot of styrofoam, you can let your child do this so they see what you mean.

  2. Use the sponge brush to paint a color onto your styrofoam. Smooth the paint across, you shouldn't have any blobs. Work sort of quickly so the paint doesn't dry.

  3. Lay the paper on top of your printing block (styrofoam) and press with flat hands to smooth it out. Peel it back slowly to reveal your print!

  4. Bonus tips: You can wash your styrofoam off with water, and print a second color on top of the first. This creates a cool double image effect. You can also try creating a gradient of two or more colors, and seeing what you think of that.

Here are some examples of the process and final results. (My students decorated picture mats beforehand, and used them as frames for their printed artwork.) Remember, you can re-use the printing block you created many times! We also have explored printing with bubble wrap, no drawing required! Try experimenting with different color combinations, surfaces, and rotating the image to make a repeating design.

Have fun with it!

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