Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Printmaking for Kids

Oh, I love printmaking.  And I love sharing this media with children.  Kids I think, take to printmaking like fish to water and it has always been my experience that children with special needs, or children who struggle with fine motor skills, are drawn to printmaking like no other media.
You know I love owls.  I seem to return to this subject each year in a variety of ways.  So many cultures recognize owls for their wisdom, their mystery, and their magic.  Perhaps it's their silent flight.  Maybe it's the beautiful patterning on their feathers.  Anyway I think owls make an interesting subject for student art.  My third graders requested an owl project so I gave them this.

They began by sketching from resource photos I downloaded from the web.  Their value sketches were amazing...but that's another story.  After practicing, they created a line drawing on a half sheet of copy paper.  This was their first experience with printmaking so we talked about the differences between a print and a drawing...especially concerning color.  I stressed the importance of pattern in their design.

Their design was then taped to a Styrofoam printing plate and they drew over their lines pressing in the design.  The paper was lifted and they drew very carefully over their lines one more time to deepen them. Ticonderoga Kindergarten Pencils work great for this step with their broad rounded tip.    I help my students cut out their plate because I'm afraid of cracking, but they could probably do this step themselves.

I also attach a folded piece of tape to serve as a handle and write the student's name on the plate.  It's helpful, I think, to demonstrate the process of printing while they are in the designing phase.  Printmaking can get hectic and it's good for students to see the steps demonstrateded twice.  I especially stress the importance of keeping clean in making a successful print.

You can see my complete process here.
If you don't have a stack of scrap papers on hand... then run to your school recycle bin and pick up a few discarded magazines or catalogs.  .  Rip the cover off any catalog and lay the printing plate on page one.  Ink it up.  Tear off page one and discard.  Lay a paper on a second catalog.  Place your plate on paper.  Use a cover sheet and roll with a brayer.  Throw away the cover sheet and top sheet of the magazine and put your print on the rack.
Kids get back in line ready to print again...I teach the kids to place the plate "in the parking lot" while waiting for their next turn.  The parking lot is a waiting place on the table for printing plates so they're not walking around with inky plates.
You can use tempera paints to print.  You can mix paint with Elmer's glue.  But I use Speedball water based block printing ink for consistently good results.
Happy printing.


  1. We are both in an owl mood today, I love these Barbara :>

  2. I am noticing that Miss Hazel Terry. Perhaps its the big autumn moon that has us thinking that way and I'll be posting more owls shortly.