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Printmaking in the Classroom Using Homemade Plates Part 3

Printmaking guide using stamps, yarn and art materials

Welcome back to another free art lesson from Golden Road Arts. In the second part of the printmaking series from the OAEA 2021 Fall Conference, we discussed making art using stamps.

Today we have part three in the series, as Barbara Mason demonstrates how to create prints using homemade plates. Watch as Barbara shows the printmaking process with simple art supplies.

Easy Printmaking With Plastic and Cardboard Plates Video

Learn how to create eye-catching and textured prints using simple items like cardboard, plastic, crayons and more.

Materials Needed for Plate Printmaking

  • SAN plastic
  • Tape
  • Sticky-back plastic
  • Roller
  • Speedball ink
  • Cotton rag paper
  • Foil
  • Cardboard
  • Water-soluble crayons
  • Felt

Accessible Printmaking Techniques for Kids in the Classroom

Read the video transcript to see Barbara Mason’s printmaking techniques. Find out how Barbara transfers designs from a plate to damp paper.

OAEA 2020 Fall Conference: Printmaking in the Classroom – Part 3

I’m sure that you’ve seen these; as educators you’ve seen these kind of things that you can buy; these little stamp drivers. This is a packet and it was a couple dollars and it’s got six in it, all different sizes. So as I said you know we like repeat designs. I saw a lot of stuff there. Apparently, there’s this thing called Dot Day. I had not heard of it before but they do something that’s all dots and I saw some amazing things on the Internet where teachers had just done these really elaborate installations with these dots. I thought wow that’s a lot of work.

This piece of plastic is called san and it’s the stuff that they make pop bottles out of and it comes with a piece of plastic on 4×8’ by eight sheet. You can get it at Multicraft Plastics, which is off 72nd in Tigard. Well, it’s probably a Tigard address. Anyway, you can buy a 4×8’ sheet but what I asked him to do is cut it into three pieces for me so I can get in my car; ‘cause you know it’s hard to get a 4×8’ sheet in your car. Let me just get one here and I can pass around to you. I think that the whole sheet of it is like it’s under $20 and you can get quite a quite a few pieces out of this. And so one of the one of the ideas I had; one of the ideas I had for working with this was I wanted to do a thing with alphabets, with different alphabets from what we aren’t familiar with like Arabic and maybe Hebrew alphabet – where the letters, some of them translate but they’re different and so they don’t look the same as our alphabet, and I just thought that would be really interesting for the kids to do. And so, of course because it’s printmaking, you have to draw your name – I thought it would be fun for them to do their name – you have to draw your name.

Using the alphabet you would draw your name (oh I think I have one that’s actually done here I can show you) how to draw your name on (I should be more ready for this). You have to draw your name on a piece of paper and then on the back of your piece of plastic you have to lay this down and do your name. And then, of course, when it prints it reverses. So you can see that I drew it on here backwards with the magic marker and then I turned it over and I put the tape on. And then I printed this with this ink and also the speedball ink. And so this is my name in Arabic and this is the print that came off of it.

This would be a really great thing for the high school kids too. These are just office stickers on here and little pieces of this little square stuff is stuff they use for sheetrock; you know it’s sticky back. Yeah I like sticky back; I like things that are easy for the kids to do so that they have successes; that nothing is too hard. So this would be pretty simple thing for kids to do. So let me pass the plate over too. Attendee comments “And you’re doing multiple presses?” Barbara responds “…yeah it’s printed with a rolling pin so I just rolled ink over it and then printed it. Just a bunch of different colors on each brayer, just like I did with the with this, you know. I have one color for each one. And then if the kids are in high school you know you can just lay everything out and they can do their own. If it’s little kids then, of course, I’m handing them the roller and they’re going through a little slower to put the ink on. But we’ve done some amazing stuff like that; I can show you samples. I’ve been doing this with kids for many many years; this particular process. And when I was going through my samples to get stuff out, some of these are such amazing memories for me. Let me find the one that was such a memory; it’s probably on the very bottom, of course.

This is the print; the plates here someplace, but this is the print. And so my friend’s son did this print; did the plate for this and it’s in this pile somewhere. And he did this when he was about 12, and now he’s married and has kids, you know, so it’s a really fun thing to go through these and have these memories. And we’re going to photograph a lot of these. This looks more complicated than a little kid; I think an older child must have done this one. Some of them are just real, you know, obviously this is a real young child who did this one. These are two different ones, and you can see these are just stickers, and the prints turned out really amazing. So I’ll just hand these over and let you guys look at them.

You can print them as many times as you want. So the trick to doing this is you have to use damp paper. You can’t get this ink to come off on dry paper; it just won’t. OK so here’s a drawing for one of these; so this is the drawing, and this is my little bird, a little petroglyph bird. It’s just masking tape and this is the print. So it looks pretty amazing doesn’t it for such simple processes. And this is probably done mostly with the speedball ink. Yes the paper is wet and I’ve got some paper here soaking then I’m gonna demonstrate in a minute.

And the paper that I like to use with kids is Reza lightweight. It’s 100% cotton rag and it’s very very strong and you can put it in the water and just leave it there for a day and it won’t fall apart. And I always tell the little kids, I said well what would happen if you put your notebook paper in the water what do you think would happen to it? Well, of course, it would just dissolve you know, it wouldn’t take very long for it to just be mush. But I said what about if you put your T shirt in the water what would happen. It would just be wet. And I said well the papers like your T-shirt; it’s made out of the same stuff and it’s not going to fall apart. Well, it will eventually but you have to, you know, treat it with a little bit of care. And it’s very strong; very very strong.

So, the other thing I have done on a very similar idea is I did a thing for (I’ve got so much stuff like years of stuff) I did a thing for the high school and it was their thing they do in the spring; they have a thing here where they bring all the high schools together and all the art classes together and they took them to – I think I was at Hill High – and I only had 45 minutes for each class, and of course part of that is, you know, talking and setting up. And then they had to make their work, finish it, and be out of there in 45 minutes for the next class. So I knew there was no way they were going to be able to make these; they wouldn’t have time.

So I got all my friends together and I said OK guys we’re gonna do just a bunch of abstract stuff on these plates. And so I took all the tape and all the stickers and every place I went I just carried a bag of this around with me, and every time I would go someplace I would get people to do this. And so a lot of people took turns making these different plates. When I went to the school I had the kids print a different color on each plate and then printed one over the other. And some of them came out really well; some of them, of course, were horrible; just depends. And then some of the kids did want to make their own plates and they were moving like lightning to get that done in 45 minutes. So it was not an easy thing to do in 45 minutes to make a plate and print it but they were determined. You know kids can be pretty determined when they want to be; when they want to do something.

So this is a really easy thing to do, very low tech, doesn’t cost very much money. Your only real cost is this and of course you could theoretically peel the tape off and use it again; that was my original thinking and I did some prints like that on linoleum. And I was thinking I would just (have a sample here I can show you). Here’s one that’s done that way. This is my own print. This is done on a piece of linoleum. And so my thinking was I’ll just peel the linoleum off and use the plate. Well, of course I liked it so I never peeled it off and then I thought well I shouldn’t be using linoleum, it’s too expensive, I’ve gotta find something else, and that’s when I went to the little pieces of plastic. But it was, you know, it was one of those good ideas that you think well I’ll just peel this off and I’ll be able to use it for a long time. Well maybe not.

But I like kids to be successful, I like them to all turnout. I had a little second-grade boy one time and it was in Troutdale too, I can remember him, he was so cute. And this is really a long time ago and he did this really nice print. And I said to him “this is so nice” I said “are you going to be an artist when you grow up?” and he said “I already am an artist” and I thought “oh of course what was I thinking.”

You just get a piece of scrap paper and spray this and you’re good to go. These particular rollers that I have are really old. My understanding is that the new rollers – whatever they’re using to make them – that they get sticky, and so I think that you can just use a little cornstarch or baby powder when you’re done with them – kind of dry them off – and then they seem to be fine after that. But fortunately, I have a lot of these old rollers that I’ve had for a long time and they have a piece of tape around him that lets me know it’s my roller. I don’t like to steal stuff from the school; I want to make sure that the one I’m taking is the one I brought. And every once in a while I find a pair of scissors that says something like Aloha Park on it and I always feel really bad.

So we were printing earlier and we were using the rolling pin to print with. I’m going to talk about these other printmaking tools. This is what’s called a PLA baren. These barens come from Japan and they’ve got little bumps all over it; the whole thing is made out of plastic and they’re very inexpensive. They’re about – I don’t know probably now they’re about $10 – I’ve had this one for a long time. Then the next step up from this is a baren that’s very similar except this disc comes off and when it wears down you can replace it, and it’s also plastic. Then this is the real thing; this is a real baren with a bamboo leaf and the inside of it is coils of bamboo that’s been twisted. And this barren probably costs about $100, maybe $150. And they all work. The thing is with this when you’re printing you can feel what you’re doing through it, so if you’re printing something you can you can feel. These you can’t, of course, can’t feel for it. So I think these are fine for anything you want to do with kids. I think this would be great and it works really well.

I wanna show you a very similar kind of thing that we’ve been doing with his stamping but instead of printing directly on the plastic plate you can use anything as a substrate; literally anything at all; cardboard, just anything you’ve got around. So these particular piece – I’m gonna actually you know what I’m gonna do I might even give these to you as samples because this is something I’m probably never gonna do again – but this is a speedball screen and this is just tape on the back of it, so this could be peeled off and you could use it again easily. This is a very simple one made out of an embroidery hoop, so if you don’t get your stuff. I can’t demo this ’cause I no longer have a squeegee. And I found this when I was looking for samples; I found these and I thought this would be a great thing for somebody to use who wanted to show how to do this for no money because, literally, this doesn’t cost you very much. You know the whole setup for screen printing is pretty expensive. You know you gotta get the screens and the filler and the hook; the clamps that hold it down.

So this plate this plate would probably be called a collagraph plate.This is done on a piece of; this looks like it might be a piece of piece of plastic but you could use a piece of cardboard; it wouldn’t matter. And so on here there are leaves. You can see that ’cause you can see through the back on this one. And So what we’ve done is we’ve just taken foil and we’ve put it over the top folded around the back and taped it down.

Everything releases from foil; it doesn’t matter what you put on foil, it comes off ’cause foil is so slick nothing sticks to it. And this one is done with just pieces of corrugated cardboard on the foil. Maybe I’ll print that one and do the demo; I’ve always liked that plate. This one is done, I think this is more leaves on this one. Yeah these are these are all leaves so it must have been a leaf project we were doing. So these are just leaves that the kids found and you can glue them on.

And you can just take a piece of string – it doesn’t have to be elaborate – with little kids like kindergarten and 1st grade, I cut the pieces of string ahead of time. So they’re yarn or string; you don’t want it any thicker than yarn. If it’s too thick it just doesn’t work very well. And then I just give them a whole bunch of pieces and they take them and they put them on their piece of cardboard and then we just tape them down with Scotch tape, because gluing not only takes longer but, you know, they’ll have glue everywhere. Pretty soon it’ll be on their hands on their face on their clothes. They don’t mean to do that, it’s just that they’re little kids and they get it everywhere. So they glue it down and then you put the foil over the top of it and it prints.

So I’m gonna just print this one for you so you can see how well it prints ’cause it’s sort of amazing. What do you want, the cardboard or the leaves? OK I’ll do that one. And this one is done with- what do they call this modeling paste – and we just put it on the board and squeegee through it. And so you can see that you could cover this with foil and it would be a pretty good print. Same idea. The other thing I found recently that you could use that worked really well for me and it’s water-soluble; it cleans up with water. I don’t know how healthy it would be for you but it’s a construction adhesive that comes in a tube; like this vinyl adhesive caulk. Washes up with water. It says it does it all – bonds, caulks and seals. Probably dangerous to your body.

I always want people to wear gloves; I don’t like putting my hands in things that are bad ’cause you just don’t know what’s in it, you know. Here’s another one called Liquid Nails; the same kind of thing. You can squeeze this onto a piece of cardboard, push it around with another piece of cardboard, and you can make a plate out of it. Then you can let it dry and then put the foil over the top and print it. It’s pretty astounding what will come out of that. The little kids do incredible stuff how they always blow me away. The kids that are older that you can work with them and they understand a little bit more about how printmaking works; they say well what if I put a piece of color behind this. You know what if I had another piece of paper; what if I had three pieces of papers into one you know? How could I make this more interesting and they can do some amazing stuff.

So one of the things that you can use on this too are water-soluble crayons. Oh I didn’t get my markers; they’re in the backroom – just any of those marking pens; everything I have is pretty much water-soluble. So you can just use these; these are water-soluble crayons. These are the Neo Color and, of course, I wonder how many times this has been printed. You think the foil would just wear out. If we’re going to print this on some damn paper; so anything that’s water-soluble you can put on here and it’s going to work. Watercolor doesn’t stick so well to foil. Oh those are perfect.

So I always tell the kids that they can use these crayons; they can use the pencil’s; the water-soluble pencils not so much ’cause they’ll tear the foil. But these water-soluble markers – you wouldn’t think these would work – I got so excited when I tried these and they worked ’cause you know I do a lot of stuff with little kids and I really wanted it to work and it did.

So there is an organization in Portland called the Dreaming Zebra Foundation. Dreaming Zebra Foundation does art supplies for kids and schools that don’t have it and need it. (You can pass this around to your contemporaries.) I’ve been working with them for a couple of years and we got a bunch of stuff for Head Start, and then we got a bunch of stuff for another teacher; they needed watercolor paper and Dreaming Zebra provided it.

So then, I don’t know two months ago, they phoned me up and they said (I had just moved in. I built my house, it is right next door. I built this house and so I had just moved in over there) and they phoned me up and they said “Do you have room for a truckload of stuff?” And I said “well, yeah, actually my brand new garage was empty and I said sure.” and I was envisioning a pick-up. But no, it was a truckload; it was a big box truck. I’m guessing it was $20,000 worth of art supplies; it was so much stuff. We completely outfitted three whole schools. We gave so many teachers; we just called up everybody we knew, we put it out on the district website and said if you need stuff….so I still have enormous amount of colored pencils and enormous amount of brushes so if you’re interested in those they are available. Cause I would like to be able to put my car in the garage this Fall. And it was really fun to give it away; it was it was like Christmas, it was so much fun.

We wanna support everybody we can ’cause there aren’t that many of us doing this and we want to make sure that we can. Let’s do a little pink on here; why not pink, it’s good as any. So fortunately I’m working on a table that’s plexiglass so I can just roll it out. You can roll this ink out on almost anything; if it stains it comes off with soft scrub pretty easily. I haven’t had too much problem with that. OK so this is looking pretty warm, maybe we’ll give it a little blue here let’s see what we get. And so when you roll out ink, of course, you know you lift, roll, lift, roll, lift, and that gets it even on your roller. It’s a simple thing but if you don’t know how to do it. Oh this is maybe going to be great; maybe not. Well, if something terrible happens it always happens when you’re doing a demo, you know, it just never fails. One time I was printing an etching and it had three plates and I printed the last plate upside down in front of like 100 people; it’s pretty embarrassing.

Here’s another one that’s done that some student did which is pretty impressive; these are flowers. So you can see that this process works so well because anything that you can put underneath these pieces of plastic. This isn’t even a heavy piece of plastic; this is just a piece of mylar, you know, I mean a piece of duralar from a package. So this is actually printmaking paper and this is (unfortunately I didn’t mark it) but I’m pretty sure this is probably Reeves. I’m gonna lay this on my plate. It didn’t quite cover it, but pretty much. Now I’m going to put a piece of wax paper over it and the only job the wax paper has is to really protect the back of the paper and to keep all the ink, you know, where it’s supposed to be and not on your blanket; on your piece of felt. So this is a piece of felt just from the fabric store.

So you just roll it, and once you start rolling the paper- because it’s wet- it’s likely going to stick to the plate. I’m using my amazing little bearing tool. So you should be able to see it kind of coming through the paper. Let’s peel up a corner and see how it looks; so it looks pretty good. So all of this stuff came off because it’s water-soluble. So now when we peel this up…so there’s a lot of texture in here. Some of that’s texture from the foil, some of it’s a little texture from the paper. But you know this is just a piece of cardboard with some stuff glued onto it; some corrugated cardboard glued onto it, and then water-soluble stuff. And you can see that if you gave this a little thought about your colors and what you were doing, what you were making out of it, that it could be a pretty spectacular print. So it’s easy for anybody to do this.

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Printmaking lesson using foil plate at OAEA Fall Conference

Printmaking workshop for children at school

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