I’ve been teaching block printing workshops in Seattle since last spring.
I love teaching the class and get so inspired by all the beautiful student work!! Here is a fun picture from my last workshop… 🙂
I’ve been thinking about offering a workshop that’s similar but a little more accessible.
Though block printing tools and materials I use for the class are super easy to handle (no linocut or wood block because they’re tough for beginners), I think some students are still intimidated by the idea of carving a block.
So I picked up this gorgeous book by Andrea Lauren recently to learn about stamp making using art foam sheet, which requires no carving.
First of all, this books is beautiful! Her work is amazing and often very intricate – but she shares step-by-step instructions on how to create your own stamps and blocks in a very user-friendly way.
I became interested in the art foam stamp making because it requires no carving and is great for beginners or those who just want to experiment with block printing.
So as soon as I got my book, I created my own stamps using art foam sheets and documented the process for you!
1. Sketch your design for the stamps.
I wanted to design something pretty to print on an A2 size greeting card (4.25″ x 5.5″), so I drew the frame that’s the size of the card in my sketchbook first. Bold and simple designs work really well for block printing and definitely easier for beginners.
I really liked one of my watercolor painting of camellias, so I sketched the design based on the artwork using a pencil.
2. Trace the design with pencil on a tracing paper.
3. Transfer the image on to the art foam sheet surface.
Put the tracing paper down with pencil side facing the art foam sheet. (I grabbed this art foam at a craft store.) The pack of art foams I got came in variety of colors, and I just used this blue one.
On the hindsight, I probably should’ve used a lighter colored foam sheet because it was hard to see the pencil lines on the blue sheet.
These art foam sheets are handy because it’s got adhesive on the back, and it makes it really easy to mount the pieces on the board later.
To transfer the image, you rub the tracing paper from the back with a spoon or a bone folder. Be careful not to make an indent on the foam sheet because that will show up when you start printing.
4. I MADE A MISTAKE HERE – You’re supposed to do step 5 first before cutting all the pieces out 😀
But I wasn’t following Andrea’s instructions carefully and cut all the pieces apart before adding the lines and details. It’s easier to add lines (essentially drawing on the foam sheet) when everything is on one sheet.
Anyway, do that first, and then you can cut out the pieces with scissors or an exacto knife.
5. Add lines and details to your stamps.
So make sure you do this first before cutting all the pieces out. As you can see, it’s not the end of the world if you reverse the process, but it’s definitely easier if you do the detailing before cutting them apart.
To add indented lines, you go over your drawing on the foam sheet using a tool with a sharp tip – in this project, I used a skewer. You can also use knitting needles, dried-up ball point pen, and other tools for making an indent on a foam surface.
When printing, the indented lines will not get inked and the flat surface will get the ink. Again, be careful not to make a mark with your fingers/nails where not intended. If you do, it will show up in your prints. When accident happens, though, I try to be flexible and incorporate it into my design somehow 🙂
These foam pieces look cool just by themselves, don’t they?
6. Mount your stamp pieces on a piece of plexiglass.
I got a piece of acrylic sheet at an art supply store and cut them down using my exacto trimmer – it sort of worked but totally shattered the edges of the plates and aren’t very pretty!!
(I later ordered this cutting tool from Hyde and hope it does a better job.)
You place the plexiglass cut to size (mine is 5.5″ w x 4.25″ h) over your design and peel the backing from the sheet and stick them on to the plate.
By mounting the pieces on to the plexiglass, it makes it easier to print the same design over and over, and you’re able to apply even pressure on to your stamps when printing.
Again, be careful not to make an indent on your foam pieces while sticking them on to the plexiglass.
Since I wanted to print my design in two colors (one color for flowers and another for the leaves), I’m creating a separate plate for just the leaves. I didn’t quite like the layout of my original drawing, so I’m shifting some leaves around here.
7. Two plates with the foam pieces are done!
8. Here is the test print I made using stamp pads.
To ink the plates, I lay the stamps on the table and coat the foam sheet surface evenly using the stamp pads.
Then I pick up the mounted stamps, lay the plate down straight on to the paper and apply pressure using the palm of my hand. I marked the corners of my plate on the paper so it’s easy to match up the two plates.
I used the red ink for the flowers and navy blue for the leaves. Pretty, yes ?
You can wash, pat dry and fine tune any of the details on the foam and print more until you’re happy with the result.
It was a pretty quick project. It probably took me about an hour or an hour and a half from start to finish? And clean-up is pretty easy as there was no paint rollers or plates to clean up!
I want to experiment and create more fun stamps to play with! 🙂 Hope you’ll give it a try!
p.s. I’m offering a foam stamp making workshop on February 4th in Seattle. If you’re curious, head on over to my website and learn more 🙂