Oh how the holidays always seem to sneak up on me. Even with the huge banners hanging in every store I walk into, I somehow manage to tune it all out. Then I remember…I have kids. THEY certainly haven’t forgotten…Oh my, I need to make something YESTERDAY. This year, I seem to have it under control in spite of myself. I’ve also managed put together a couple of tutorials to ease us through the week, and if one speaks to you, give it a try! They’re simple, the materials are easily accessible, and they certainly won’t break the bank. You might even have some supplies laying around the house.
First off I’m going to indulge in showing you a tutorial of one of my very favorite art forms; printmaking. I’m obsessed with relief printing in all it’s varied and complex forms. You can really get elaborate, carving away layer after layer, printing between and picturing the picture backwards, forwards, and sidways until your head spins…but we won’t go there today. We’re just going to carve stamps. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s satisfying. So let’s get crackin’!
Here’s a list of the supplies you’ll need:
a lino cutter
easy cut printing blocks, or even rubber erasers
blank cards or paper for your final prints(and envelopes too!)
First off, you want to cut a piece of paper the same size as your cutting surface and draw a picture with a pencil(pencil transfers easily). Once you get your sketch done, and the lines are where you want them, go over those lines again with a little more pressure to make them nice and dark. Make sure you erase everything you don’t want in your design, because you won’t want any stray lines confusing you while you’re carving. (As you can see, I erased some designs I wasn’t crazy about. I make lots of mistakes, you’ll see…)
Next, place your picture face down on THE SMOOTH SIDE of your carving block and burnish with a spoon, or the back of your linoleum cutter as I’m doing here, pictured above.
And now the picture has been transferred. Yes, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. I transferred it onto the bumpy side of my block, not the smooth side as I have instructed you to do IN ALL CAPS above(face palm!). I told you I make lots of mistakes.
In all honesty, I didn’t even realize I made this mistake until after I had printed and was putting everything away, so don’t worry if you do the same. It didn’t make that much of a difference.
Next: let’s take a look at our cutter..
You can store your blades right in the handle! I love this thing! They’re pretty easy to find at craft stores…but we carry them in the school store too. Ours comes with three blades in different sizes, and they’re pretty much the only sizes I ever use. No. 1 is for fine lines and detailing(the blade you’ll start your carving with), No. 2 is a still a thin line, but you can clear away more in a tighter area without frustration. Once I go over my lines with a 1, I use the No. 2 blade next to that to clear away a little more area. Then there’s the No. 5 blade which is for larger areas and carves away bigger, thicker lines. So now we have our design transferred and are ready to start carving!
Above you can see the smallest blade in action. Start with carving outside your line and tracing your picture as you go. When you get to a sharp angle; carve up to the line, pick up your blade, turn your work a bit, then put your blade back down 90 degrees to the cut you just made, and keep going! I hope that makes sense, if not, here’s a picture below:
Once you’ve outlined all your lines with the thinnest blade, switch to the No. 2 to start carving away smaller areas and the closest perimeter:
Remember that everything you carve away will be white. I know it sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but when you’re concentrating on the task at hand, it’s easy to loose sight of the over all design idea that you have in your head. Thinking about this will hopefully guide your hands to make more mindful cuts. Unlike me….
I decided that I didn’t like those little lines I added around the heart on a whim…it happens. Usually it’s salvageable! I just gave the bird a white chest, it’s better in the long run. The heart will be more noticeable, it will look better, I’ll just keep telling myself that…
Okay, before you get inking there’s one more step I find useful when I’m using light colored inks(if your using black, skip it, it won’t matter). You might want to go over any pencil marks left on your block and erase them gently. If you don’t, they have a way of showing through the ink on your card, and it doesn’t always look nice. Sometimes it’s not noticeable but, hey, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own work. I’m using a block that is itself essentially a giant eraser, so take care and do this gently so it doesn’t crack your crisp edges or wear them away.
On to the next step. Ink away! I just use an ink pad in a pretty color from my local craft store. Pounce the ink pad all over your block until it’s completely covered. Then lay your inked up design down on your card, and rub all over the back of it so that even pressure is applied throughout the design. This will ensure a crisp print. I use a brayer, because I have that kind of stuff laying around…but if you don’t, you can use the flat end of a meat mallet or a rolling pin, OR your fist! Whatever you use, just make sure even pressure is applied so every pretty little detail of your design shows up! (and print on a piece of scrap paper first!)
Now that you’ve made your first print, you can see where you need to go back and carve a bit more away. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! I’ll get that spot under the birds nose later, and I’ll probably cut away all that dead-space with an x-acto knife. Doing that will also make placement of the design easier, especially if I decide to use more pretty handmade stamps with my design!
This kind of thing can get addicting. You may find yourself wanting to carve out all your doodles! That’s alright, once you have your cutter, which is pretty cheap, all the materials are affordable, and you can make the sweetest little flowers or leaves with the smallest scraps of carving material. The sky’s the limit. Have fun!