Block Printing for Beginners: Print a Tea Towel

Fernanda Franco, creative capital

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6 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Welcome & What is block printing?

    • 2. Workspace and materials

    • 3. Design and transfer

    • 4. Carving the block

    • 5. Inking and printing

    • 6. Setting the design with an iron


Project Description

Block print a tea towel

What is block printing?

  1. Learn where block printing comes from and what it is

    Woodblock Printing is a method used to print text, images or patterns. 

    There many ways of doing block printing. My favorite is blockprinting with rubber blocks because it's easy, simple and fun. 

    The art of block printing began in the 18th century in India in the region of Rajsthan and the craft has been passed down from generation to generation. 

  2. Learn about different types of stamps

    There are many types of stamps:

    wood blocks are the traditional Indian ones they are hand carved in with traditional and contemporary designs and are perfect for fabric design.

    A very simple method is using a potato, you can follow the same steps of this class to do something in a pinch.

    A good alternative is to have stamps made from your designs, there are rubber stamp stores that will do that from an electronic file or a drawing.

    Today we will learn how to use the easy cut rubber block which provides a soft easy surface to carve and it is durable for many impressions.

  3. Learn what kind of surfaces you can print on

    You can basically print on anything that you want! Fabric, plastic, paper, wood, rubber, cork.

    In this class we will print over cotton tea towels

Workspace & Materials

  1. Review the materials needed and what they are used for

    -Inks for fabric

    - Easy cut-blcoks

    - Carving tools with two nibs

    - Pencil and ball point pen

    - Transfer paper

    - Craft paper

    - 100% cotton tea towel

    - Paper towels

    - A couple of soft brayers

    - Plexi-glass 

  2. Set up the space for printing

    As long as you have a flat surface you are ready to go no need for extra equipment. Set up your space by covering your work surface with craft paper. 

    Alightly padded surface is best to print on fabric.

    You can place a piece of scrap paper below the carving block to catch the waste from carving the block. 

  3. Select surface for printing

    We will be printing on tea towels, but any other porous fabric will do.

    The tea towel is your canvas, think about where you would like to place your design. 

Selecting design & transferring

  1. Design a bold motif from imagination or from a pattern

    Select designs that are bold and simple that reproduce well.

    Avoid delicate designs and fine lines that are difficult to cut.

    Think about pattern and rythm and the position of the design on the tea towel.

    Don't forget that your design will be reversed once printed,.

    Use your imagination or get inspired by patterns.

  2. Define your color palette

    Chose colors that are compatible and vibrant. 

    You can use the colors straight from the jar, or you can mix them to create your own. 

  3. Differentiate between the positive and the negative image for printing

    Make sure you are clear which is the positive image (raised part that will be printed) and the neagtive image (background) 

  4. Transfer the design into the carving block

    Use transfer paper or caron paper to transfer your desing int o the block. 

    Place a leaf of the transfer paper on top of the block, making sure it doesn't slip.

    Trace around the design with a balll point pen drawing the outline.

    Remember if you are printing letters, it's specially important to draw & spell backwards because when you print you will get a mirror image of the block. 


  1. Sharpen the carving tools

    Use a small stone to sharpen the carving tools before starting.

    Genly slide the blade  forward into the sharpening stone for a few seconds.

  2. Trace outline with fine cutter

    WIth the fine v-shaphed knive trace the outline all around.

    Always cut away from yourself, and be careful to keep your fingers away from the blades. 

  3. Carve out the background with a u-shaped cutter

    Use the u-shaped cutter to carve away the background.

    Try to keep the surface leveled by carbing in the same angle every time. 

  4. Refine any areas that may be overlooked

    Take a moment to refine any areas that may have a raised surface, if you clean them up now, they won't show in your final print.

  5. Check the boarders & that the carving is deep enough

    Check that the borders are not printing by test printing on paper, if they are showing go back and clean up. Make sure that your carving is deep enough so that there is a defined raised surface.

Inking & printing

  1. Spread the ink on the plexi glass & roll the brayer

    Spread the ink by placing a dab (quarter size) of in horizontally on the plexiglass.

    Use the roll to spread the ink, up and down, allowing the roller to get ink on the whole width.

    Make an ink well of about 5" square, ink hsould be thin and not sticky.

    If it is sticky you need to roll more, or remove a bit of excess.

  2. Roll the brayer charged with ink into the printing block

    Once your roller is charged with ink, place it on top of the carved block and rollas many times as needed to get full coverage of ink on the stamp.

  3. Test the printing block with scrap paper

    Before printing into the fabric, always good to test on scrap paper to make sure the design is reporducing nicely. Go back to carve any areas if need be.

  4. Print into the towel

    Place the bocl with ink face down, and apply even pressure.

    Repeat as many times as desired if creating a pattern.

    Make sure the block is properly inked before stamping

Iron to set the design & finish project

  1. Allow the design to dry

    Allow the design to dry in open air for about 15 minutes or use a blow dryer. Do NOT iron before it is completely dry. 

  2. Iron the tea towel on the reverse side

    Set the temperature for the material (cotton) and iron for 30 seconds.

    Follow any additional instructions the inks may have on the label

Additional Resources

  • Sources and material list

  • Different kinds of stamps

  • Materials

  • Design / Positive-Negative

  • Carving examples

  • Inking and printing

  • Finished tea towels

  • More inspiration

    **Don't forget to post pictures of your prints or stamps, or anything that inspires you to print!**

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