Block Print in a Pinch from Home

Block Printing in a Pinch at Home

There's no excuses if you want to start creating T O D A Y - here's how to make a block print without fancy or expensive supplies - you probably have everything you need in your kitchen or home office already.

Living in a small town where your art supply stores include a Walmart, a Staples, and a Dollar Store, you can become incredibly resourceful. One of the greatest ways to strengthen your own creative muscles is by adding constraints to your process - so partial credit for the hulking creative physique I now possess - is due to the limited supply of resources in my hometown. (Thank you small town BC!)

Yes, I could order art supplies from Opus or any other art supply website in the world, but sometimes the inspiration and urge to create will strike hard and fast - and you just don't want to wait a week to ten days for the mail to come in.

So, here is a list of supplies you can find already in your house, and the steps you can take TODAY - to create your very own carved block that you can use to start test printing on paper. Tests and experiments are a great way to get a taste for a new technique without having to commit to fancy tools. Try it out, and if at the end you are craving more you can order the right tools for the job after that. 

I taught my very first block printing workshop using paring knives and elementary school erasers. The results are as equally wonderful as using the proper tools - and maybe a bit more interesting too. When you are forced to improvise, that precious feeling falls away from the process, and instead of focusing on an outcome, the results can be much more organic and true. Try it at home yourself, what have you got to lose?

Common Materials in your Home:

  • paring knife or utility blade/exacto knife
  • potato
  • pencil erasers
  • acrylic craft paint
  • ink stamping pad
  • scrap paper or card stock

Process:

1. Draw a simple shape onto the surface of your carving material with a pencil. If it is an eraser this will be easy. If you are using a potato, you may have to blot the moisture off with a paper towel, or press harder into the surface for an embossed line that will help guide your cutting tool. When I went to my cupboard and didn't even have a potato, so I improvised with an onion!

2. Carefully use your cutting tool to carve around your shape, go slow, despite the fact that I filmed this in hyperlapse, you don't want to have to run for a band aid part way through. Once you have carved enough material away from your eraser or vegetable - wipe away any bits that are in your work area, and prepare your space for printing.

3. If you are using stamp or ink pads they are fairly straight forward - you can press your block onto the surface multiple times to apply a good amount of ink, and then press your block firmly onto the paper with even pressure. Ink, press, repeat. If you are using craft paint to print with, add a small amount to a washable plate, and swirl it around a bit. You want a layer of paint that you can dip the surface of your carved block in - rather than a big round goop of paint. Try to cover your surface with a thin-ish layer of paint. (and if your onion fall apart in the process, no big deal.)

4. Start your test prints! Experiment with different amounts of ink or paint and see what happens when you use not enough, or too much. Experiment by applying different amounts of pressure against the surface or your paper or card stock. Does your block slip or slide? Do your fingers hit the surface and leave marks?

Because you are just testing it out and experimenting - enjoy the process of making marks and maybe making a bit of a mess - that's usually when things take a turn towards FUN. Clean up paint with soap and water, discard your vegetables but save your eraser for printing another time.

If you're interested in going deeper into carving & printing, you might enjoy my NEW e-course: BEGINNER BLOCK PRINt