Printmaking for Toddlers and Other Humans Without a Press


I took printmaking in college, my work was definitely sub-par and I got ink on almost everything I owned. But it made me a more well-rounded designer in the end. My teacher was an eclectic, mid-fifty-something woman, hopelessly devoted to art and her students. She was sweet as sugar and found beauty in even the ugliest mistake of an art project (all of mine). I left the class feeling like I took away what I needed and needed what I took away, but I was frustrated that I had completely butchered the art of printmaking, which I have always had such an appreciation for.

Five years later, after moving to Tahoe and struggling with the usual "I need to meet people" mentality, I decided to sign up for a class at Lake Tahoe Community College and give printmaking another try. While my class was mostly mid-life crisis moms and unfairly talented teenagers, the class was good for me in an artistic sense, I learned some new techniques and perfected some old ones. It was far more successful that my first round. Again, my teacher was an eclectic, mid-fifty-something woman, hopelessly devoted to art and her students. But she was tough as nails and while she may not have known it, she made me push myself to succeed at the things I wasn't quite ready to develop as a 19-year-old Kendall student. I'll post my work from the class sometime, but let's stay on track today.

One thing I picked up in this class was the "art" of rubber stamp-making, it was something that I could easily do at home without any heavy equipment or chemicals. Now, usually when I think of "stamps" I think of toddlers and hardcore scrapbookers, but if you do it right, it actually looks kind of cool. It looks like a real printmaking project. Above is an example of a recent stamp project I completed for some birthday cards.

Want to get your stamp on? Here are some tips:

1) Buy some rubber printing blocks either online from Blick, or, if you live near an art/craft store, that's always easier. They come in different size blocks and are easy to cut to size with an Exacto.

2) Get yourself some carving tools, I have this handy Speedball Linoleum Cutter, it comes with six different attachments and it can be used on a variety of materials.

3) You'll need an ink pad or a rubber brayer and some paints to color the stamp.

4) You'll also need fun paper. Try printing on cut up brown paper bags, tissue paper or any other unique paper you find. It really adds to the design verses just printing on white paper.

5) And a cool design, drawn on the rubber first (with pencil), then carved out of the rubber with your new Speedball tool. Keep it simple with very few lines your first time. And remember, if you're using letters or words...reverse it!

6) From here, you can stamp on like a toddler.

It's pretty fun to play with different papers, inks and techniques. You can also choose to subtract more from your rubber stamp after you've printed a few times to modify your design and make it look different. If you're looking for a good afternoon hands-on project, give stamps a try. They're not just for toddlers.

Have fun!