6 Fun Print Making Techniques for All Levels



Printmaking can be one of the most memorable art activities for students however creating interesting printmaking lessons suitable for a range of different levels can be a challenge.

In this blog we hope to share with you some different print making activities you can adapt to suit your own classroom.

Acetate Monoprint


Monoprinting is a type of print that can only be made once. These water colour prints are a great introduction to print making for all year levels.

Using acetate as a base, students can draw over the plastic with water soluble markers. Images can also be traced from underneath the acetate as it is see through, this will help students who feel as if they are not good at drawing gain confidence.

Once the image is drawn on the acetate a high gsm or water colour paper can be sprayed or sponged with water. Place the paper on top of the acetate and rub to transfer the image from the acetate to the paper.

Tip: some water-soluble markers work better than others. Brands with a higher pigment will draw on the acetate more easily. Brands with more water than pigment may create a more speckled look

Wax Monoprint

This is another monoprinting lesson which can be done with any wax crayon or oil pastel in your classroom. For this print making technique we draw on sensory paper (similar to a very fine sand paper) with oil pastel. Use multiple layers and colours over the image you are drawing.

Once the image has been drawn on the sensory paper you can iron the back of the paper on to a surface of your choosing. This could be wood, paper, material or anything porous.

Tip: the more layers of crayon or pastel you draw on the sensory paper the bolder your image will be. You can also redraw the image on the sensory paper one it has been ironed and reuse it

Foam Sheet Printing

This is a great printing technique which can be used for a range of ability levels. Foam prints involve a printing foam sheet being carved into with a blunt pencil. By pressing into the foam the pencil will leave an indented shape which will create the negative space for the print.

Students press their design into the sheet. Once they are happy with their image they can roll paint or printing ink over the plates with a hard roller. Apply an even coat of paint or ink and place cartridge paper over the top and rub evenly to create a transfer.

Tip: Printing inks can dry very quickly in a warm room and cause the paper to stick. Low quality or watery paints can also result in a smudged print. Try water soluble markers coloured over the top of the foam with damp paper to print for a mess free alternative.

Gel Plates

Gel plates are an extremely versatile way of printing. Gel plates can be used in conjunction with found objects, stencils, rubbing plates and cut paper to name a few. Any tiny piece of detail pressed into the gel plate will come out as a print.

Gel plates are also extremely useful for layering images. Students could place one colour of acrylic paint on the plate, roll out evenly with a hard roller, press a texture on to the coloured plate (EG bubble wrap) and then print by laying apiece of cartridge paper on the top of the plate and applying even pressure with a hand.

Students can then roll a contrasting colour over the clean gel plate and use a cut out piece of paper in the shape of a silhouette to place on the coloured plate. Using the first print students can then lay that piece of paper over the plate and press. This will reveal the silhouette with the first printed pattern showing through.

Tip: If you are layering images you can add white to the layers to create more opacity. Alternatively, you can use printing gel to create more transparency in layers.

DIY Silk Screen

Silk screening can be a difficult process, especially if you have to make your own stencils. Therefore we have come with an activity to make your own mini silk screen without the need of a stencil.

For this method we use an embroidery hoop as a base (this can be adapted to any size). Students then stretch silk screen mesh over the embroidery hoop (Stockings can also be used, however the finish in the print does not come out as evenly). Students can then draw a design in the middle of the screen with pencil. Silhouettes and large spaces tend to work best. Once the design is drawn on students can paint around the negative space with mod podge. This will create a “block” where no paint or ink can go through.

Allow the mod podge to dry. Students can then put a blob of paint or ink in the hoop with the image facing on cartridge paper or fabric. Using a plastic palette knife students can drag the paint or ink through the screen. The paint should go through the spaces without mod podge. Remove the screen.

Tip: Use a mini silk screen for the process. Students can create an image that can be repeated several times and then altered with fabric markers. The smaller size will also save on costs for silk screen mesh.

Lino Printing

Lino printing is a must for senior students learning about printmaking. There is a great satisfaction in carving out an intricate design.

Focusing on line and texture students use lino tools to carve into a tile to create a printing plate. Students can use a pencil to draw their design into the lino. It is important for students to understand the positive and negative space in a print (carved areas are negative, raised areas are positive). Students carve the areas which they have drawn out in pencil. It is important for students to not carve towards their hand or body and instead move the lino plate to get the correct angles. Students can also use bench hooks or gloves for safety.

Once the design is carved out students roll ink evenly over their plate. If a printing press is not available then paper can be placed over the plate and rubbed evenly to transfer the print.

Tip: Water soluble makers can also be used with lino printing as an ink alternative. There are also many different varieties of lino which you can use for your classes. Soft cut lino is great for students who do not have a lot of hand strength to carve and it is also great for small stamping projects. Velvet lino is great for older students as the surface can be tough to carve through but it also allows you to have more control in creating tiny details. MasterCut lino is a great all-rounder as it is easy to carve into and comes in a circular shape which can be used for interesting designs.