Back between my careers as a movie costumer and middle school art teacher, I was once a printmaker. Anyone else have a circuitous career path like that? In any case, I have an enormous passion for making all sorts of prints. While my daughter and I have made handprints galore, we’ve printed from sink mats, and stamps are a staple of our art table, this was her first foray into real printing with a brayer. If you’re new to printmaking, brayers are simply the rolling tools that help get the ink onto the plate (printing surface), and they’re easily found for about $8 at any art supply store. And once you have one, your kids will find all sorts of fun uses for it at the art table.
A print that I pulled (left) and one that my daughter pulled (right)
- Meat/Veggie tray or Styrofoam plate. You can also buy a 12-pack of scratch-foam for about $6.
- Ball point pen or sharpened pencil — for engraving
- Brayer, like this one
- Water-based printing ink. I like Speedball inks. While you can use tempera or acrylic paint, printing ink has a desirable tack to it that keeps the ink from seeping into the cracks and holes of your design. The ink is permanent, so be sure to wear a smock and cover the table well.
- Paper to print onto
- Paper to cover the table
- Tray or plate to squeeze the ink onto
We started by cutting a rectangle shape from the bottom of a meat tray.
And then drawing right onto the foam with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t give my daughter any direction except to make some marks. She began by drawing some long lines and then enjoyed poking holes all over the place. Lots of little dots. It was beautifully abstract and I couldn’t wait to see how it would print.
We moved to the art table I offered her two colors of ink. White or silver. She chose both, which is probably what I would do if I were almost three. I squeezed a small amount of ink near the top of a tray and then evenly coated the brayer. After demonstrating the technique once, it was all in her hands.
The ink makes a nice tacky noise that we both enjoyed.
She inked up the plate (her foam design), and was ready to print.
She chose a green piece of paper for the first print, and I showed her how we could press our weight on the plate to push it down on the paper. She had a better idea and found her rolling pin. Kids can be so resourceful!
When we pulled the print, she remarked that it looked like grapes. I quite agree! We printed one of these on some nice frame-worthy paper and sent it off to grandma for her birthday. And she loved it!