Foam "Woodblock" Prints

Block prints are like special stamps, and people all over the world have made stamps for thousands of years. A few hundred years ago people began stamping designs on fabric and paper.

Today we can use blocks made of linoleum, rubber, or foam, but for a long time wood was the best material. Some designs are very detailed and some are very simple. And everything prints backwards, so words are tricky!

Albrecht Durer from Germany and Katsushika Hokusai from Japan are famous woodblock artists.

Materials:

styrofoam sheet (backed with tape)
smooth heavy paper (5” x 7”)
plain paper (4” x 6”)
permanent marker
acrylic paint
foam brush
pencil

Video Link:

Two different block prints of a frog in a yukata dancing with a fan

Directions for Print Type 1 – Negative Space:

  1. Make sure the foam side of the sheet is facing up. (Not the side with tape.) You can draw your design on the foam with a sharp pencil – but be careful, since you can’t erase! If you’d like to get your drawing just right first, do your sketch on a piece of plain paper.

  2. If you draw on paper first, then when you’re done place the paper on top of the foam sheet. Go over all your lines again with the pencil. You want to make nice deep dents in the foam, so push medium-hard with the pencil – it’s okay to rip the paper.

  3. Take your sharp pencil and go over all the lines on the foam again. You’ll feel the pencil “cut” into the foam and make the dents really deep. (Just don’t push so hard that you rip the tape on the back!) If the foam doesn’t want to “cut,” poke a line of holes first and then drag the pencil point through the pokes.

  4. Mix a little bit of water with some paint in a tray. (Black works best, but you can use any color. Except yellow. Yellow is hard to see.) Use the foam brush to spread a thin coat over the whole foam sheet.

  5. Flip the foam sheet over and press it to a piece of smooth heavy paper. Rub the back of the foam to make sure every part of it touches the paper evenly.

  6. Peel the foam sheet and the paper apart. The lines you drew are now white lines on your print.

  7. If the print came out a little messy, try repeating steps 4-6 top make another copy.

Directions for Print Type 2 – “Woodblock” Positive Space:

  1. Draw a picture with permanent marker. You can draw directly on the foam sheet, or you can sketch on a piece of plain paper if you want to practice first.

  2. Now, pretend the black marker lines are shapes. (If you drew on paper, put the paper on top of the foam sheet.) Take a sharp pencil and outline the marker lines, cutting deep dents in between the white spaces and the black spaces.

  3. Take your sharp pencil and go over all the lines on the foam again. You’ll feel the pencil “cut” into the foam and make the dents really deep. (Just don’t poke through the tape on the back.) If the foam doesn’t want to “cut,” poke a line of holes first and then drag the pencil point through the pokes.

  4. Use the pencil or your fingernails to pick off the top layer of foam – or just squish it down really flat – in all the areas that you want to stay white. If you drew with marker on the foam, this means you should make sure all the black areas are taller than the white ones. If you drew on paper first, look at your drawing to make sure you’re keeping your important lines.

  5. Your “block” might get a little flimsy, but the tape on the back should keep it together.

  6. Mix a little bit of water with some paint in a tray. (Black works best, but you can use any color. Except yellow. Yellow is hard to see.) Use the foam brush to spread a thin coat of paint over the raised black lines. Try your best to keep paint off the white areas, but it’s okay to be messy.

  7. Flip the foam over and press it to a piece of smooth heavy paper. Gently rub the back to make sure all the raised parts touch the paper.

  8. Peel the foam sheet and the paper apart. The picture you drew is now printed on the paper.

  9. If the print came out a little messy, try repeating steps 4-6 top make another copy.

  10. Enjoy your prints!