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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson


Updated: Nov 6, 2023


  • variety of papers

  • ink - inkpads

  • acrylic paint

  • sticky foam pads

  • variety of mark-making materials (ie. bubble wrap, bottle caps, corks, etc.)

  • geli plate

  • brayer

  • barin

  • plexi-glass

  • linocut rubber

  • palette knife

  • styrofoam board

  • cardboard

  • washi tape

Reference for this exploration comes from:

Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages: 111-145

I'm starting with a styrofoam board. I used a pencil and came up with a design on scrap paper. Once I was happy with the look, I traced the design into the styrofoam board. I realized that my first attempt was very light and very detailed. I took another pass at the drawing directly on the styrofoam to ensure that the grooves were deep enough. Once I was happy with the design, I loaded up my brayer with black printing ink, inked up the board, and placed a paper on top to transfer the image. I tried both newspaper print and a gray chipboard. I realized that pressing the paper onto the styrofoam created more favorable prints versus pressing the foam down onto the paper.

I wanted to try creating a reduction print from this original styrofoam print. So I created my first registration jib using washi tape and cardboard. I created a 90 degree angle of where the print plate will go for each print, and a 90 degree angle where the paper will go for each print. After creating the jig, decided to give it a try. I poured out some blue acrylic paint, immediately realizing that the dried paint reactivated and destroyed the blue I was going for. So I created 2 test prints, then washed the styrofoam board carefully with some water and gently sponge brushing the paint off. I dried it completely and tried again with just blue paint. I did not like using the baren for this process, it created lined in the prints that don't look good. I also realized that creating a jib from cardboard, creates lines from the corrugation below the surface, that adds an interesting texture.

Below are a couple of videos of my process.

Here are the first step results, you can see the black print with the marks from the baren on the top left.

My first reduction etchings are in the pictures below. I realized there was so much reduced area that printing was going to be awkward, so for the last print, I decided to apply the paint with a brush instead of a brayer, for a more accurate application. The last print was the one with the best results, though still not that great. I noticed that the paper was sticking to the styrofoam, even though it had not dried. I wonder if that has anything to do with using acrylic paints.

In my next reduction step, I will remove much of the background with an Xacto Knife. I prepped my registration jib so it would align on the bottom where I will keep the majority of styrofoam. The styrofoam cut effortlessly with the knife. This print worked the best of all. Pictures below.

The last few pictures are my final reduction step. I realized that by the 4th print (16th press) the styrofoam was becoming too flat to create any detail. Overall, this process might be a good idea to do if a student wants to create a reduction print with linocut rubber. It is good for testing the process and figuring out what steps need to be accomplished to create a successful reduction print.

My next exploration was creating stamps. I used a twist on making stamps by creating shapes from sticky back foamed and placing them on a Rubik's cube. I used regular inkpads to create the stamps. I layered colors for a 3D-like effect.

Next, and my most favorite, geli-plate printing! You can use printing ink or acrylic paint. I opted for acrylic paint because I like the ease of finding a variety of colors. Pressing different materials into the wet paint creates unique shapes. Waiting until the first layer of paint dries, you are able to add another layer of paint to create a multicolored textured effect.

Here's a sped up video of placing organic material on my geli-plate

waiting for this to dry, I will add a second layer of color once it is dry.

Once it dried, I added a couple more colors.

watch this next video to see the result on paper

Next, exploring more texture on the geli-plate

The final results are colorful and fun. I great base for a bigger project or even to use in collage work.

Finally, the final exploration was with linocut printing. I had a variety of carving tools I purchased on Amazon along with a rubber linocut plate. A quick little TikTok video of my process. I used speedball ink to create the prints. Linocut, when warmed, is easier to cut into. The lines are so much crisper than the styrofoam prints.

Printmaking is an incredibly fun process to explore, there are so many different options in printmaking. It's a very playful process. For my experimentation, I used mostly plain white drawing paper. For students, I would opt for a stronger, mixed-media paper to hold up to all the pressing and pulling.

Age/Behavior Expectations:

Because of the wide range of different printmaking methods, there is something for every age level. Linocut prints with tools, can hurt students if not careful, so I'd opt for older grades to use this method (middle/high school). Remind students to always cut away from the body. If possible, using a bench hook would be a good safety precaution. All other methods of printing that I experimented with, could be used for all age groups.

Geli-plate printing requires a little extra cleanup. If the paint is not completely removed by the print lift, then running the geli-plate under water and drying promptly will clean it. Using a little vegetable oil on it too, can add life to it. Geli-plates can be pricey, so supervision and proper cleanup is essential.

Brayers should also be cleaned quickly after use. I use water, sometimes soapy water. Never dig into the rubber on the brayer as it'll affect the way that it holds paint for future projects. Keeping surfaces covered for ease of cleanup is also highly recommended.


Offer alternative methods of creation if using cutting tools that a student is not comfortable using.

As a supplement to instruction, lots of images and videos will be available for students to reference if they need.

Provide templates of images if a student is having difficulty coming up with a subject to create.

Provide an area with a higher workspace if a student needs to stand to create.

Other Supporting Materials:

  • bench hook for linocut

  • plexiglass for brayer paint

  • table coverings

  • smocks

  • hand washing station

  • bandaids

  • rulers

  • Xacto knife

  • drawing paper/sketchbook for sketching ideas

  • sharpie to assist in determining where to cut designs

Safety/Health Precautions:

Use only non-toxic materials

Keep bandaids on hand in case of accidental cuts from linocut creations

Keep all linocut tools away from face, no running with tools in hand

Sign-out sheet for tool usage

No open-toed shoes while cutting

no food during the printing process, to avoid accidental ingestion

Artist Inspirations:


Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages 89-109


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