Block Printing has been around for thousands of years – it’s one of the oldest types of printmaking and there’s evidence that it existed as early as the fifth century BC with roots in India, China and Japan. Although there are lots of different techniques, traditionally, it’s using a carved material covered in ink to transfer an image on to paper or fabric. Block printed images are typically much bolder than other types of printmaking since the blocks are carved by hand and they normally have more texture. Don’t think you can’t have detailing though – a steady hand and a small knife can produce amazing results, and of course, technology enables bypassing the hand-cut element altogether.
If you’re new to printing, block printing is a great place to start. It’s a really easy technique, one that the kids can do. Have a look at this….
You can use whatever you like as your carved material – everything from the good old potato (great fun for kids, and cheap). Pasta also works well (see the example in the round-up below).
But think what else you have laying about though – buttons are great. The process is easy enough for a summer afternoon, and it requires very few supplies beyond what you’re likely to have to hand. Look at what a potato masher can do!
If you’d like to give block printing a try, have a look at Jen Hewett’s 52 weeks of print making – she has some fabulous, creative examples. Here’s some more inspiration.
If you’re thinking about giving block printing a go, do use water based or plant-based inks. They’re so much kinder to the environment than petroleum-based inks. You can buy them online easily enough, or make them yourselves. A simple ink recipe is berry ink. Use 1/2 cup fresh berries or thawed frozen berries; strain them to get pulp-free juice. Next add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar which holds the colour, and the same amount of salt (which acts as a preservative) and mix. Or just experiment with what you have at home and in your environment.