What Are the Best Tips for Block Printing?

Sonal Panse

Block printing is an interesting and creative art form that is quite easy to do. Wood block printing and linoleum block printing are its two most common forms, but printers also make use of household sponges, cardboard, potatoes, pasta, paper and so on for the printing. Sharp carving tools are necessary for the reduction cutting, and acrylic colors, emulsion colors and printing inks can be used to produce the block print. Rollers and spoons are used to rub and transfer the print.

Polymer clay can be used to mask mistakes in block printing.
Polymer clay can be used to mask mistakes in block printing.

The first step in block printing is to draw a design and transfer it backward on to the printing block. To make this task easier, simply scan and flip the image horizontally in an image manipulation program, get a printout and trace that on the block. By transferring the image backward, it comes out the right way when printed.

When cutting the block, the design is considered the positive space and the area around the design the negative space. The latter is generally the part cut away, leaving the design to be printed; it can, of course, be done the other way around to get a different effect. To avoid mistakes, it will help to make shallow cuts with the tip of the cutter before gouging deeper; a bit of polymer clay can be used to mask mistakes if they happen. It is important to cut the block on a sturdy table surface and to cut with care to prevent injuries.

The color for making block prints should be mixed on a flat surface to get a good consistency. Once the block has been carved, the color should be applied with a roller. The color application needs to be uniform, but not too thick.

When the paper is placed on top of the block, or the block on the paper, whatever seems more convenient, it is necessary to ensure that the paper doesn't move during the block printing process, as this could spoil the print. It is a good idea to smooth the paper with your palm, and then rub it carefully with the back of a spoon. Printing block images can take a while and it is necessary to apply a consistent, gentle pressure all over. It will help to do a few test prints before doing the final ones.

Printers should get in the habit of cleaning the blocks immediately after the printing. This will prevent the colors or the block printing ink from drying on the blocks, and the cleaned blocks can be reused later on. If the blocks are not cleaned and the colors harden on them, the design may have to be carved all over again for new block prints.

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