Quick & Easy Block Printing: Print a Pack of Postcards | Leitha Matz | Skillshare

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Quick & Easy Block Printing: Print a Pack of Postcards

teacher avatar Leitha Matz, Maker

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Overview & Choosing Your Subject


    • 3.

      The Supplies You Need to Start


    • 4.

      Preparing Your Image


    • 5.

      Transferring Your Image


    • 6.

      It's Time to Carve Your Block!


    • 7.

      Proofing As You Go


    • 8.

      Making Your Final Prints


    • 9.

      What's Next?


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About This Class

Love the look of block printing? It's an art that's been around for literally thousands of years. In no time at all, you can learn the ropes and immortalize your favorite pet in the process.

In this Intro to Block Printing, we'll go over the process and the tools, and then we'll try out our skills by carving rubber blocks. You'll end up with an image of your favorite furry, fishy or feathered friend that you can print onto a pack of postcards.

Send them out to mark the holidays or just show off your new skills! After this intro class, you'll be ready to move into more advanced forms of block printing.

Meet Your Teacher

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Leitha Matz



I work as the head of product at a startup, but when I'm not at the office, I'm always making things of my own. I especially love illustrating, writing and design.

Here at Skillshare, I usually focus on creating classes in printing -- everything from stencils to woodblock.

I find printmaking inspiring because anyone can quickly start making successful prints with very few tools. It really opens the doors to producing a vision of your own on all kinds of materials: t-shirts, walls, stationery, stickers and so much more.

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1. Introduction: Hello. Welcome to this introduction to block printing with rubber stamps. We're going to cover the tools and techniques of doing block printing with rubber and that will be a great preparation for the next class which will be about block printing with wood. The project for this class is an animal. It can be your own pet or just an animal that you really like. I don't have a pet, so I'm doing this project with a pug. We'll make a pack of postcards that you can keep for yourself, or send them out, or maybe their greeting cards or something or you can even package them up and make them a nice gift for the holidays. [inaudible] and I love printing. I've been doing printing since I was a kid and I'm really excited to take you through this process because I think you're really going to enjoy it. But first things first, let's do a quick overview of the process and get you a supply list of the stuff that you'll need to get going with printings. That will all be in the first video. 2. Overview & Choosing Your Subject: Thanks for coming along on this printing adventure. I think you're going to actually enjoy the process quite a lot. I enjoy carving, I find it really soothing. Here's how we're going to roll. First, you're going to pick out a subject. This can be a pet that you have, this can be one of your friends pets, or it can just be a random animal that you love. Or you don't have to do any animal at all. You can do a completely different design and this is all up to you. Whatever you really feel like getting into. We'll convert the subject into a simple black and white image. Then we'll transfer that image to a block, and we'll carve out the white parts or the light parts of the image. Then we will apply ink and press a print. That's it. Really easy. Once you have the tools, you can start carving your work and you can get printing really quickly. Obviously, those tools you can go over and over again for years to come. If you really enjoyed this process, it's easy, it's cheap to get going, and you'll have skills that you can use to build into more advanced forms of printing later on. Starting with the first bit, the image. Do you have a good headshot of your pet? If you have something that shows off light areas and dark areas and you can really see the animal's face, that's going to be ideal. If you have something that's like a dark cat in a black room, that's going to be less ideal. Same thing with like white dog in the snow. Not really the image we're looking for here. What you want is something with a lot of contrast, and hopefully you have that face front in the center because that's really going to be the personality part of the project that's going to make your print come to life. You want to find an image that really isolates the animal, and then we'll play off its natural contrasts with a little bit of photo editing. This plug is great. It's got dark areas, it's got light areas, it's got neutral background, it's got a recognizable face. This is going to be the project that I'm going to be working on through this class. Once you have an image you like, post it in the project galleries, start your project, we'll see what your classmates post, and that'll be the beginning of this process. In the next video, we'll move on to image preparation and supplies. 3. The Supplies You Need to Start: Unless you've done this printing before, you're probably lacking a few of the supplies you need to do block printing. You're going to need to make a trip to the art store or go online and find the supplies. The things that you absolutely need are a basic kit of carving tools. I have one here from a company called ABIG. I don't know how you pronounce that but it's essentially just linocut tools and that'll be fine. I'll show you what's in the package here. We have the knife holder. There are several blades. This one comes with a set of five blades. Then there's also this little dowel device that is used to get the blade back out of the device. You just push it straight out through this little hole here and that's really useful. That's the curving kit and it shouldn't cost you a whole lot for a basic curving kit. There are more advanced versions of these, but if you're just getting started, the basic kit is really all you need. Second, the curving block. This is a curving block that has a flexible vinyl and you can actually use both sides. If you want to start practicing on one side and then flip it over and do your final cut on the other side, that's absolutely an option. Some people start out practicing with erasers, for example. But when you actually do your print, it's nice to have something that's of good quality. This one is made in Spain by a company called Factis but Speedball makes the same thing in the United States. Then there's printing ink. I'm using printing ink that I've had on hand. Again, Speedball is a good company for this kind of thing. They make printing inks that are going to be just right for your project. Finally, paper. There's a lot of paper options you can use. For this project I'm using bamboo and rag paper blend. The sheets are fairly thick. Honestly, there's a lot of options. You can use watercolor paper for this. You can use interesting Japanese papers that are made out of fiber. Some of that comes down to personal taste. You might want to experiment with different paper. The paper that you use should be relatively stiff because we're going to be using it for postcards. You want something that's going to hold up in the mail. A few more things that you're probably also going to want, although they're not absolutely necessary, the brayer. This is a classic printing tool. I have a squishy rubber brayer. This one comes from Speedball. Again, they make a lot of printing supplies. It's nice because you have this flat edge on the side so you can just set it up and if it's full of ink, you're not going to get ink all over your surface, which I love. I also like to have a brush. This is just a really basic brush that I got from a home supply store. Sometimes when I'm doing a proof, I like to just brush the ink onto the brayer. Although if you're doing a lot of prints, you will want to pour some of the ink out and use the brayer to pick up the ink off of a surface. But if you're just doing one, sometimes it's nicer. Just brush the ink on because it saves you a little time. The other thing that I really like is a tiny brush, a little one. You can see here, this one has a flat edge on the top. It's really nice for making little touch ups on edges or anything that you think needs a little bit of manipulation. I also like to use a standard graphite pencil for doing transfers, we'll see that a little bit later. You may want to have something like a ballpoint pen to do the transfer. Again, you can use the pencil for this option. For dealing with your image, it's really nice to have a computer with some photo editing software and a printer so then you can print that out and get your image ready for the image transfer. One more thing, cutting mat. I really like to have a vinyl cutting mat. It's not absolutely necessary, but it's really good if you're working on a table surface so that you absolutely aren't going to gouge out the table by accident. It's just nice to have for a lot of projects. So I'll post to supply list with all this stuff in the project description area. You can download that and print it out and take it to the art store or go online with your checklist. In the next unit, what we're going to talk about is image manipulation that we're going to use before we make the transfer to the block. 4. Preparing Your Image: Here's my pug. The first thing that I'm going to do is to go up to the image menu and make sure that we have the right size. The size of my rubber block that I'm going to be carving is 16 by nine. First we'll resize the image, favoring the height, and then widen the canvas a little bit. That's about, all right, 16 by nine. Okay, we're looking good. I'm going to move him over in the frame just a little bit. I'll do that by making a copy. The next thing I'll do is change this image into black and white. You really don't need all that color, it'll just confuse us. There we are, he has a lot of gray here. If you want to bring this down to an even more simple image, go up to Image Adjustments and under Posterize, you can adjust the levels. If I want to bring it down to just a really basic version, I can set it at something like eight or four or even [inaudible] and you end up with something that's much easier to define the definition between the light areas and the dark areas. So that's what we're looking to do with this image preparation step. You just want to make the image a lot easier to isolate so that when you do the transfer, the areas that you need to focus on are reading loud and clear for you. I will print this out and we'll get ready for the next step, which is the image transfer to the block. 5. Transferring Your Image: So what I'm doing right here is I am putting a lot of graphite on the back of the image of the pog that I have and this graphite is going to act as carbon paper. If you happen to have carbon paper, that's great, but this is a really quick and easy way to put that carbon onto the rubber block for a transfer. Once I have good coverage there, the next thing I'll do is put down my rubber block, I'll turn it around, I'll get this thing positioned correctly, hold it down, and I can either take my pencils or I can take a pen and just trace around my pog. You can see I'm just going over the edges, I'm blocking out those areas that I know I'm going to want to position on my rubber block. Let me just peel this back and show you, you can see now where I have my positioning. I can make sure that this is all very clear so that when I come in to my carving, I know where I'm going to be putting those light parts and those dark sections. You can see it coming through. So the carbon transfer gave me my placement. Now I just come in, I look at the original and I do some more line work, I make it more defined, I make it more obvious where we're putting those blacks, where we're putting the whites. At this point I'm feeling pretty good about the transfer, it's pretty true to the image, I have those dark areas and the light areas. I think I'm about ready to carve. So that's the transfer process, just make sure that you get to the point where you're comfortable, that you know where you're going to start doing those carves. Then in the next video, we'll just get out those knives. 6. It's Time to Carve Your Block!: My initial layout here is ready to go. I've got my knife out and ready. The first thing I'm going to start doing is outlining this with the straight edge. You want to keep a good hold on this and keep your fingers out of the way obviously, and just go along the edge and grid out those areas that are going to become the white areas versus the dark areas. Once I have that outline, I'm going to switch out the blade and I'm going to get out my big gouge. This is the u-gouge tool and this is the tool that I'm going to be using for the background. You can start wherever you want, but I like to start with doing the big cuts that are going to help me define the shape of this animal. I dip in and I move slowly and preserving a little bit at the edge, and you'll notice that I lighten up at the edge of this cut. Now that's going to give me a rough border, and I think that's going to be really good for this. As I move it along here, I'm going to keep a little bit of space between my gouge as on the outside because I think it's going to give him a nice halo or corona effect. Or you could just gouge out the entire area here with a medium to deep gouge, and that will give you the effect of having no texture in this area. But I do want to keep a little bit of it, so I'm going to maintain a bridge between my cuts. You want to keep those cuts slow, smooth, and in control. You don't want to let that knife get away from you. This is the point in the process that I'm going to take my time, I'm going to do the work deliberately and carefully, and when I feel like the images really beginning to come out, that's when I'm going to start doing proofs. I'll do a little carving, I'll take a proof, I'll see what it looks like. The proof really is in the proof. When you do a sample in that way, you can see it's going to need more of this, it's going to need a little bit more dug out over here to bring out the light parts and you can really see at that point where you're carving is. It's also nice once you get a little bit of ink on your block to see where those light and dark parts are and what's raised on the surface that's going to actually print on your page. We'll go over all of that in the next video. But keep in mind that once it's gone, it's gone. Go conservative and we'll do several proofs throughout this process. I like to do at least four or five just to see where things are at at each point in the continuation of the carving. 7. Proofing As You Go: I'm just going to take a quick proof here. This paper isn't even sized really correctly, but it'll give us an idea of where we're at. Looking at this, it looks like his muzzle is still heavy there on the side, so I'm going to carve a little more out of that. Looking pretty good overall, but maybe in the chest to carve out some of that space, make him a little bit lighter. Let's look at a few actual proofs. I can see in the first one it's still pretty heavy, I've got a lot of muzzle on there. In the second one I've taken out some of that muzzle, lightened it up a bit. In the third there's yet more material gone, and then in the fourth I've lightened up the chest quite a lot. You can see the progression across these proofs, and this is exactly what you're going to experience as you do proofs of your own work. Feel free to add a few of those proofs to your project as you progress along. I think it's a really interesting process to share. In the next video, we'll do our final prints and we'll look at the difference between proofing and actually printing. 8. Making Your Final Prints: Moment of truth here, I'm happy with the curving, I'm happy with the proofs, and it's time to do some actual printing. What's the difference between printing and proofing? Well, not much. The difference that I would say is that sometimes I use like a higher-quality paper, and sometimes for printing versus proofing, if I'm proofing, I might use the wrong size or just not pay as much attention to it. For printing, this is the real deal. I'm going to take my brayer and I'm going to ink it up. Let's see how it goes. I want to make sure I'm getting ink all the way out to those corners. That's something I often miss. So little tip for you. When you have a nice even coating, then it's time to put down your paper. I'm going to square that up, and just press really well all the way along the design just like you do with pass. I'm going to pick it up, and there we are, print. 9. What's Next?: So here we go. Dried print, ready to go and I can make a lot of these if I want. I can just put a line on the back of this. I could even customize it a little bit more if I wanted to make my own printing press look and feel. The options that I have here at this point are I can start coloring this by hand if I want to. I could throw some confetti and sparkles on it if it's somebody's birthday and I wanted to make it a little bit special for them. I could make it into a valentine card, just throw few hearts on it. There's an option to do another stamp over the top of it. If you wanted to do something like merry pugmas. It's really all up to you what kinds of effects you want to do. You could even start stamping on patterned paper, things that have an effect already behind them and you can get some really interesting looks. So from this point, you have the basics in carving these blocks and you have the tools to move on to wood carving. That's what we're going to do in the next video that I produced. I hope you'll join me for that one too. Thank you so much for joining this class and I can't wait to see the projects that you guys can do.