Printmaking With Scratch-foam

Materials: Scratch-foam, water-soluble block printing inks, brayers, paper, palette of some sort (we used wax paper because I couldn’t find freezer paper, and the acrylic portion of a box frame); items to scratch into the board with

I recently took a two-day printmaking/boookbinding class (blogged about here and here), and while I took it for my own benefit, I of course emerged with all sorts of ideas for things to do with the kids. But I’ve had Scratch-foam on my wish list for quite a while, just waiting for enough other items to jump in the cart to make shipping worthwhile! So this is what we began with–a very simple entryway into printmaking, completely accessible (you could try other paints besides block printing inks), and, like all forms of printmaking I’ve tried, wholly magical and fun.

The Scratch-foam sheets are 9×12, and I cut them in half so we were working with 9×6 plates. This not only doubles the number of scratch-foam sheets we have, it also enabled us to use regular printer/copy paper. I wanted the focus to be on experimenting, not worrying about using up special paper. (And as you’ll see at the end, we used lots of paper!)

I also told the boys they’d get one piece of foam each for today. Why? Because I wanted them to focus on what they could do with printmaking, not draw a picture, make a print, and then repeat the process. One plate = lots of experimentation. So the first thing you do with these, obviously, is draw into the plate.

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V is getting quite involved with his drawing here! We looked around the studio for things to use and found the end of paintbrushes, pencils, the bone folder, a wooden tool that was blunt on one end and sharp on the other (it came in a set of clay tools), even fingernails.

After scratching, ink with the brayer. The ink should be a thin, even coat. Even a toddler can do this once you show her how.

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At one point, N got a bit painterly with his ink application.

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And G, as per usual, requested to use all the colors in turn (which made for some pretty wild and amazing prints!).

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Here, V will show you how simple the process is. Ink your plate, smoothly press your paper over the inked side of your plate using your hands, and then peel the paper away to reveal the print. (As with all photos, click to embiggen.)

steps

Even I got a chance to make some prints.

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(My husband served as photographer for this art-making session, which is why I had so many photos from which to choose!)

By the time we were done, we’d made lots and lots of prints.

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G didn’t always cover her entire plate, but her color combinations were fantastic.

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V also mixed colors to get a series of really nice prints. (I got the starter set of block printing ink, so we had blue, yellow, red, black, white, and gold.)

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N was having some trouble with inking, pressing, and fingerprints–and perhaps a busy plate.

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I think that one is probably a ghost print (when you make a second print off the plate without re-inking). He was happy with the process, though, and with many of his prints. I like his painterly ones, too.

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One of my prints:

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That’s one of the ones I made using up some leftover ink on somebody’s palette. (Moms do that.)

The water-soluble block printing inks clean up super easily, although I don’t know if they wash out of clothing. (Amazingly, I won’t find out, either, because none of the kids got any on their clothes.) It rinsed off the brayers, acrylic palette, and plates with just water, and it wiped right off the table and hands (and forehead, in G’s case), too.

About halfway through, V said, “This is the best project! Usually I’m done by now.” There is just something about printmaking–the way you can use the plate over and over yet get different results, the freedom to experiment without worrying you’ll mess something up (you’ll still have the plate), the immediate gratification of peeling off that paper–it’s so exciting and engaging. And, as you can see, it can be as simple as scratching into some foam.

8 thoughts on “Printmaking With Scratch-foam

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  6. Susan

    So fun! I love it!! Thanks for posting. Where did you get your brayers? Would something else work instead?

    1. amy

      Hi Susan, Thanks for your comment! I believe I got one brayer at Utrecht–there’s a brick & mortar one about 45 minutes away–and the other online from Blick. You should be able to find them in art supply stores, and perhaps even in a craft store that has a fine arts supply section–look in with printmaking supplies. (These are rubber brayers.) You could experiment with applying a thin layer of paint/ink with a foam brush, but I’m not sure it would work the same way. (I think the advantage of the brayer is getting a thin, even layer of ink without brush marks?)

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