Printmaking is a fairly inexpensive art for beginners to get into! In a nutshell, the printmaking process consists of a design carved into a linoleum block that is then transferred to paper. Here’s a short printmaking tutorial (videos included):
1. Get your supplies together
When it comes to printmaking, there are a lot of different options in brayers, inks, papers, techniques–you get the picture. Luckily, when not bought in bulk, these supplies are pretty affordable. I recommend experimenting with different materials to find out what you like best!
These are my favorite printmaking products:
When it comes to traditional linoleum blocks versus other kinds, I definitely recommend a more rubber-like kind of block. Be careful though–I’ve ordered some rubber printmaking blocks that felt more like jumbo erasers (they were very tough to carve…). My personal favorite is the Speedball Speedy-Carve Carving Block because it pretty much cuts like butter.
I think the majority of other printmakers would agree with me when I say that a simple carving tool with interchangeable blades will do, like this tool from Speedball with 5 different heads. It’s a great 5-in-1 tool! I’ve been using the Blick version of this tool for the last 4 years and it’s just now started to dull. It’s pretty reliable too!
Of course there’s something to be said about the quality of tools used when making artwork (especially true for paintbrushes), but a nice tool set like a basic Pfiel set of 6 will put you out about $150…which is a much higher investment than that $10 Speedball tool.
Plus, you don’t need expensive tools to make great art!
Other Printmaking Supplies
- A brayer or roller (my fave is the Speedball 4”)
- Printmaking paper or cardstock (I use a combination of both!)
- Doodle paper
- A pencil
- Somewhere to roll out your ink…I use a piece of plexiglass from an old picture frame
- Tracing paper (optional)
2. Design or draw something!
Draw a flower, or a friend, or the first place you felt on top of the world. It doesn’t matter! Just remember that whatever you draw will be mirrored onto the linoleum block, so if there’s any text…do a horizontal flip in photoshop.
3. Transfer your image onto the block
This step is where the optional tracing paper comes in. It’s also one of my favorite printmaking hacks!
Whenever I’m done drawing out the image I want to carve, I’ll trace over it with tracing paper to make sure that the lines are clean and the pencil is fresh. Then I’ll flip that paper face down (or doodle-side down) onto the block and scribble the heck out of the back. This pressure will transfer your picture onto the block and get everything ready for you to start carving.
4. Carve out the negative space
If you went for an interchangeable carving tool, then you’ll have a lot of options when it comes to blade shapes: anywhere from small to big, and wide to shallow. Choose one and start carving!
If it’s your first time carving, it’s best to start with shallow cuts so you can get a feel for the material. And always carve away from your body and fingers.
Here’s a video of the above steps:
5. Prepare your ink
Pull out your handy-dandy picture frame glass and squeeze out a small amount of ink onto the surface. Roll it out with your brayer until the ink is smooth and kinda sounds like you’re stirring mac and cheese, and your brayer is evenly coated. This may take a handful of strokes!
6. Ink your block
Roll out a thin layer of ink on your block, making sure to cover every part you want to show.
7. Wipe off your hands 🙂
8. Let the paper meet the block
Use steady pressure to transfer the ink to your paper.
There are a couple of different ways to transfer the ink, like laying your paper on top of the block or even picking up the block and pressing it face-down onto your paper.
9. Peel the paper from the block
Your very first print may be less than perfect. Heck, mine was. I’ll show you. Here’s the very first print I ever made (and the ink was applied with a makeup sponge, if you couldn’t tell):
So don’t give up. It may take a few more attempts to make a print that you’re happy with, and if the final result still seems off, you can always go back and carve more from your block, print, and repeat.
10. Let dry and enjoy
And remember, a big part of printmaking is embracing the imperfections; They sure do look a lot cooler!
Here’s another video of the inking steps:
And, since I showed you the process of carving and printing that block, it’s only fair to show you the final product.
What are you carving? I’d love to see!