DIY: Block Printing

January 15th, 2009

Back in December, for John’s birthday, I was in a rare crafty kind of mood so I decided to make some wrapping paper. The following block printing process could be applied to greeting cards, fabric projects…really the possibilities are limitless.

Oh, and before I move on, KITKA would love for you to share your step-by-step DYI projects so don’t be shy, send them our way!

Skill level: Easy. Use a simple image and you can’t go wrong.

Time: 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how intricate your print will be.

Materials: Speedball is a brand name that sells block printing equipment at most art supply stores. You will need a:

Linoleum Cutter (to cut the design out of the block)
Brayer (to roll ink onto block)
Speedy-Cut Block (any size)
Acrylic Screen Printing Ink (colour of your choice)
Surface to roll ink out (I use a piece of glass)
Paper or other surface you’d like to print on


Cost: If you have to buy all the materials, it shouldn’t be more than $30.

Step 1: Draw or print out a high contrast (ie. black and white with no gray/midtones) illustration. Don’t forget that if your image must appear exactly how you see it (ie. text), you must flip the image because otherwise when you print, it’ll be backwards. In my case, it didn’t really matter as the object is pretty symmetrical.


Step 2: Transfer the image to the Speedy-Cut Block. Since I printed my image off the computer, I drew over the lines with a sharp pencil, then placed the image face-down on the block and pressed using a sharp object so that my pencil lines would transfer on to the block.

Step 3: Use the Linoleum Cutter to cut out all of white space on the block. As you can see in the image below, I used the image of a Kobenstyle pot, as John is obsessed with vintage cookwear. Strange, I know. Anyway, basically I chose to make my print a line drawing, though you can choose to have it the reverse, so that the outline of the object is the colour of your paper and the inside and outside of your image is where the ink is applied.


Step 4: Using the Brayer, roll out the ink onto your work surface. Make sure you don’t use too much ink, and that the brayer only acquires a thin and even coating of ink. Then gently roll the ink out onto the block. You may noticed that some areas you want to keep clear of ink have picked up the ink – before you print, just use your cutting tool to remove this raised bit of lino, or else leave it as it can lend itself to your design, adding a textural element.


Step 5: Flip the block over and place on your paper. Press firmly but be careful to not mush it as the ink can make the block slide. Press down evenly so that all areas of ink touch the paper. (Full disclosure: my first sample print for the photograph didn’t print well at all – the ink was not even and yes, it mushed. Point is, you may want to do a few trials on scrap paper to warm up).


Step 6: Voila! Just keep adding a thin coat of ink and repeast Step 5 until the desired effect is reached.


Have fun!!!

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