If you’ve been the to The Kitchen Table Classroom before you may have caught on that printmaking is just about my favorite of all art process. There are just so many different printmaking techniques and materials that an artist can use; each of which produce dramatically different results. This styrofoam printmaking process uses materials you have on hand and is widely adaptable for age and skill level!
Styrofoam printmaking materials….
What I love about this particular styrofoam printing process is the super small materials list and the fact that the results are so sophisticated. And if your kiddo finds they especially love this there are so many amazing extensions to this project!
The list of materials for this project is super short, although some of the things needed are supplies that may not be in your cupboards. First a printmaking brayer is super helpful when using printing ink. It’s essentially a little roller that evenly spreads the ink onto the printing plate. This soft 2 incher brayer by Speedball is what I have and I totally recommend it.
Next you need some printing ink. Again, Speedball makes great ink. It’s affordable and has that thick, sticky quality that makes for successful prints. This small tube of black ink is plenty for lots of projects, lots.
You could probably get by with using thick black acrylic painting painted onto the printing plate with a paint brush. But investing in in these couple of extra supplies gives such a professional feel to the whole thing. And for less than fifteen bucks there are dozens of different projects you could do with these supplies!
Finding styrofoam for printmaking….
I have long purchased styrofoam trays from the deli of our local grocery store. I feel like I waste less because of their rectangular shape and the foam is super thick and sturdy.
When working on this styrofoam printmaking project we ran out of foam trays and moved on to using Styrofoam plates. I’m talking about super cheap, small, round plates. I wondered if they would be thick enough to work. They were and I actually loved them because the thinness caused less drag on the pencil. They were easier to draw on, allowing more detail with less snags. The downside is the finished printing plate is a bit more fragile. Know your kids.
These little plates are the kind that are often used at kids birthday parties and receptions to hold nothing more than a cookie or a few cubes of cheese. Think about recycling plates that have been “lightly” used for this project!
Drawing the perfect design for printmaking…
These Styrofoam printing plates are not a good place for kids to practice drawing in a realistic fashion. They will be frustrated. Encourage abstract shapes, geometric designs. Using a ruler or tracing lids can be a fun way to start.
Maybe even try a super small example for them to get the process in their mind before spending too much time! This is a great way to use up any scraps you cut off when cutting your printing plates.
My favorite trick is to use a square printing plate. That way the styrofoam printing plate can be rotated when printing and create some designs that look much more intricate than they really are. Kids love these results!
Create a colorful background for your styrofoam print…
In this printing project we use only black ink. The color shining through in the background is oil pastel. If your art supplies are done on a budget oil pastels are one way to stretch it. The colors are crazy bright. The colors are as blend able as paint and they last a long time, even with a group. You can get a pack of 25 colors for less than five bucks, a deal.
Cover your paper with color. The example above uses a starburst pattern. My kids loved watching one color blend into the next, color wheel style. Any mix of colors will do. The brighter the better.
Ink up that styrofoam printing plate…
When you styrofoam printing plate is carved and your paper is full of color you’re ready for ink. Printing ink is different than paint in that it is thick and sticky; allowing for less squishing around of ink and more details. Squeeze a tiny bit, maybe a large pea sized dollop, onto an extra paper plate.
Use the brayer to roll back and forth one direction, then the perpendicular direction. My kids loved this part and did it 150% longer than necessary. The sound effects are awesome too. Printmaking ink has a nice “squeak” to it!
Roll ink straight on to your styrofoam printing plate. Leave the printing plate sitting and place colored paper on top of it.
Use your fancy printing barren or your fingertips (like we did) to smooth the paper and make sure it makes contact with the printing plate in all areas.
Peel your print off…..
The results are just so eye catching and look so much more involved than they really are!
This easy styrofoam printmaking project is an amazing jumping off point for kids that might want to take printmaking to the next level. Now they have printmaking ink and a brayer. Linoleum cutting is an awesome next step for the older elementary or above student!