Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Printing – Foam Tray Prints

The children learn the process of relief printing, making many prints from a single drawing. For ages 3 to 9. Plan 2 sessions.

  • Learning about relief printing
  • Making many prints from a single drawing
  • Understanding and using printing terms
printing plate, relief printing, brayer, printing ink, ink tray

  • Foam trays from grocery stores (see note below) or Scratch-foam (available in art supply stores)
  • Pencils with blunt points
  • Soft rubber brayers
  • Sheets of glass or Plexiglas to be used as ink trays
  • Absorbent paper such as manila, construction, or printing paper
  • Water-based printing inks
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines from newspapers
Note: Foam trays that were donated by a grocery store were used in this lesson, however scratch-foam from art supply stores is easier to work with.

First Session
  • To make the printing plates, trim the edges from the foam trays so that they lie flat and have smooth surfaces, and then cut to the desired size. Plan one printing plate for each child plus a few extra.
  • Set out printing plates and pencils.
  • Prepare a demonstration area by covering the work surface with newspaper and setting out an ink tray, a brayer, printing ink, and printing paper.
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that many copies of a single drawing can be made using the printing process. In this session, they will be putting drawings on pieces of foam to make printing plates, which will be used to transfer the drawings to paper in the next session. 
  • Show the children how to draw on a foam using a blunt-pointed pencil. Explain that the lines need to be pressed firmly, but not so hard that they break through the plate. Tell them that drawing on foam is made easier by pulling the lines towards themselves rather than pushing away.
  • To demonstrate the printing process, place about an inch of printing ink onto the ink tray. Use the brayer, or roller, to spread the ink in several directions. Be sure the children understand that the intention is to have the ink evenly distributed on the brayer, rather than on the ink tray.
  • Roll the inked brayer over the printing plate several times. Refill the brayer by rolling it across the ink tray again. Then roll the brayer over the printing plate in another direction. Repeat this several times until enough ink has been transferred from the ink tray and is evenly distributed on the printing plate.
  • Explain that the areas pushed in by the pencil will not get ink on them and, when printed, will be the color of the paper. The rest of the picture will be the color of the ink. This process is called relief printing.
  • Show the children how to pull a print. Place the printing plate on a clean surface with the inked side up. Lay a piece of paper on top of the plate. Holding the paper in place with one hand, use the other hand to rub firmly with the soft part of the finger tips. Be sure to rub the entire surface. Tell the children that an important characteristic of a quality print is its sharp, crisp edges. They should rub around all the edges very carefully.
  • Holding one side of the print with one hand, carefully lift up the other side to see if enough ink has been transferred to the paper. If not, let the paper drop and continue rubbing. When finished, carefully pull the paper from the printing plate.
  • Once the demonstration is completed, have the children make their drawings on the printing plates. Encourage them to fill their drawings with lots of details, textures, and patterns. Remind them to push firmly, being careful not to break through the foam.
    Second Session
    • Prepare one or more printing stations. Each station should be covered with newspaper and include a magazine, an ink tray, a brayer, printing ink, and printing paper.
    • Set aside a clean area for rubbing and pulling the prints.
    • Plan space to dry the prints as they are pulled.
    • Set out the prepared printing plates.
    How to Begin
    • Tell the children that they will be using their printing plates to make as many prints as time allows.
    • Review the printing process, emphasizing the importance of evenly distributing the ink on the brayer and rubbing carefully around the whole print, including the edges. Tell the children to place their printing plates on a magazine when applying the ink. As each child finishes rolling the ink, turn the magazine page so that the next person will have a clean work area.
    • Explain that you will be putting the ink onto the ink trays because using too much ink will clog the lines on the printing plates. 
    • Have the children spend the rest of the session making as many prints as time allows.
    • In order for the children to understand the printing process, it is important for them to see it done. When demonstrating, be sure to use a subject different from the one the children will be using.
    • If the children include letters or numbers in their drawings, they will need to know that their print will be a mirror-image of their drawings. Therefore letters and numbers will appear backwards.
    • A proper amount of ink on the ink tray will sound tacky when rolling the brayer across it. If the sound is smooth or slimy, there is too much ink. 
    • As children gain experience, they will enjoy printing with different colors and types of paper. 
    • If time permits, show the children how a finished print is numbered. The number of the impression is placed over the total number of prints made. For example, the first print pulled out of five prints would be 1/5; the second print pulled would be 2/5, and so on. This is written in pencil on the right hand side under the print. The artist’s name appears on the left hand side under the print, also in pencil.
    • Is the ink distributed evenly on each print?
    • Are the edges of the prints sharp and crisp?
    • Discuss how textures and patterns add interest to the prints?
    What the children might say...
    • Uh oh! I pushed too hard and now there is a hole in my printing plate.
    • I’m drawing my dog playing in the grass. Do I have to draw every piece of grass?
    • I like the sound that the brayer makes when it rolls on the ink tray.
    • My first print is very light even though I rubbed hard.
    • The paper slipped when I was rubbing and my print is smeared. 
    What you might say...
    • A hole in your printing plate won’t hurt your print. However, if you don’t push so hard into the foam, your lines will be easier to draw.
    • Your print will be more interesting if you fill your printing plate with patterns or textures. In addition to grass, what else might be on the ground where your dog is playing?
    • That tacky sound tells us that the proper amount of ink is on the ink tray. If the sound becomes slimy, we know there is too much ink.
    • Often your first print will be lighter because there isn’t yet enough printing ink on the printing plate. When you add more ink for your second print, it should come out darker.
    • On your next print, be sure to use one hand to hold the paper in place while you rub with the other hand. 
    Click to view this lesson in a printer-friendly format.