Tuesday, December 05, 2006

block print cards: a tutorial

Here is a very rough tutorial for how I make block printed cards. Disclaimer: I'm not a professional print maker by any means, but I'm happy to share what works for me. Okay now that that's out of the way let's begin!

Step one:
Come up with your design and get yourself a linoleum block. I like using linoleum better than wood because linoleum does not have a grain and is easier (for me) to carve. I usually draw my design on tracing paper or vellum in soft pencil, turn it over, place it on the block and redraw the design on the block. This transfers the lead from the backside onto the linoleum. Then spray it with artist fixative so you don't rub the design off as you carve it. (Trust me, I learned this from experience!) Get yourself some nice sharp carving tools - (I'm not promoting this website, just the example of the tools) it will just make everything easier.

Here is a photo of this year's block in process of being carved. You can see the transferred pattern as well.

Step two:
You'll need some block printing inks and a small brayer. You really want to get specific block printing inks, if you use acrylic paint from a tube it just doesn't work as well and you'll be frustrated and sad. (Trust me, I learned this from experience, too) Here at the low-tech house I use an old plate and a plastic knife to mix up the color I'm looking for, and to roll the paint on the brayer.

Here's the action at this point

Step three:
Roll the block with ink using the brayer. You want to use the minimum amount of ink necessary to coat the block. Too much ink will cause the print to slip, but too little ink will not give you a great print. It's basically something you need to try and you'll get a sense of what works. It's a pretty intuitive process so just try it out.

Here's the block getting rolled

Step four:
Place the paper on the block and burnish it down with your hand and/or with a burnisher. I use acid-free cover weight paper, as I'm making cards, but you can use almost anything to make a print.

Step five:
Put the block with paper on the ground, put a scrap piece of paper over the card, and in your sock covered feet jump up and down on the block. This is the fun part! Try to get every area of the block and try not to fall off!

Here is an action shot (you can see I fell off the block I think). You can also get a good glimpse of my messy studio.

Step six:
Pull off your print and let it dry. If your continuing printing, keep going so the ink doesn't dry on the block. You can add extender so it dries slower. After about 10 prints you can use a scrap sheet to jump on the block with any remove any ink buildup.




Blogger Mary said...

Thank you for this wonderful tutorial! I was wonderin' exactly how to make block prints after seeing the nifty cards you made. I can't wait to try it out!

7:37 PM  
Blogger cheryl said...

Cool! I'm glad it was helpful. I hope your cards turn out swell!

11:12 PM  
Blogger Ami said...

Your tutorial was awesome. I'm starting to think about places I can get messy with some ink in my tiny house.

5:24 PM  

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