Block Printing: Paper Cards

One of our favorite pattern-making techniques is block printing.  We love the raw, natural marks you get through carving blocks, dipping them in ink, and printing them on paper or fabric.  Today we are going to focus on paper block printing and finish with a handmade card design.  Here is a list of materials that will help with your printmaking.  These are just suggestions; half the fun is experimenting with different brands and colors.



  • Pen/Pencil
  • Sketchbook
  • Paper Block Printing Ink*
  • Speedball Speedy Carve Blocks**
  • Linoleum Cutter
  • Speedball Brayer
  • Small Piece of Plexiglass (can use the glass from a picture frame)
  • Card and Envelope

*We use Speedball's Block Printing Ink for paper.  They do have block printing inks that are suitable for fabric and paper, which may be a good investment if you plan on using both surfaces in the future.
**There are many options for blocks.  Try a bunch of different ones and see which you prefer.
1.  Fill up a page of your sketch book with doodles.  Have fun and let the creative juices flow.  We will transfer these ideas to the block.  Think of different patterns/shapes/motifs and how they can interact with one another. 
2.  Pick out your favorite shapes and trace them onto your block.  We recommend pencil, as pen ink can transfer to your paper when printing.  Or just wash off the pen ink before you print.  Your blocks can be as simple as triangles.  Once you get to printing you'll see there are a lot of different patterns that can come out of a triangle.
3.  Carve several different shapes so you can play with them all while printing.  Remember when carving - what you carve away will be the color of your paper.  What you leave will be printed in ink.  And when you print, your block will be in reverse.  So if you are carving out a flower that you want to lean towards the left, you have to carve it leaning towards the right because once you print it will flip.  TIP:  Shade in what you want to leave to be printed so you don't carve it away by accident.
4.  Now the fun part!  You've got your blocks carved out.  Now it's time to get your brayer, plexiglass, and ink ready.
5.  Squeeze out a bit of ink onto your plexiglass.  Roll it out so it makes a nice thin layer.  You don't want your ink too thick on your blocks or else they might slide.  You can either dip your block into the ink similar to stamping or you can roll the ink onto your block with the brayer.  Try different ways on scrap paper and see what you like best.  Also watch your fingers!  They are ink magnets and you probably don't want to be finger painting too!
6.  See what different patterns you can come up with.  Have fun!  There are no "mess ups" just beautiful marks.  Keep in mind the negative space and use it to create patterns within patterns.  The possibilities are endless!
7.  Once you've found a pattern you like on your scrap paper transfer it over to your card and envelope.  You can even continue on to make more beautiful stationary!!  You'll never need to buy greeting cards again!



Where to buy:
Dick Blicks is our go to online shop for block printing supplies. 
You may even consider buying one of Speedball's beginners kits.  That's how we started.  The kit included a linoleum cutter with 3 different size cutters, ink, a brayer, a lino block, and more. 

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