How to Make Foam Core Block Print Designs

Written by fiona fearey
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How to Make Foam Core Block Print Designs
You can use multiple blocks to make a print with many colours. ("woodblock print"- Japanese street fashion image by Tamara Kulikova from

You can make block prints from a wide range of flat surfaces. Artists carve wood blocks and linoleum tiles to make durable printing plates. Unfortunately, these items take skill and sharp tools to master. Resourceful art teachers teach printmaking lessons with items that are inexpensive and simple to carve, including potatoes and erasers. Foam meat trays and foam core board are readily available and provide surfaces that kids can even carve designs on with a pencil.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Utility knife
  • Toothpick, thumbtack or screw
  • Water-based block ink
  • Palette
  • Ink retarder (optional)
  • Brayer
  • Rolling pin (optional)

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  1. 1

    Cut foam core board into the desired size for your printing plate. Use a sharp blade for a clean cut.

  2. 2

    Draw on the surface of the foam core with a pencil. Press down lightly to make thin, printed lines. Use more force to create bold lines.

  3. 3

    Add shading by using a series of lines or marks placed close together. Puncture the surface with an object with a sharp point. Use a toothpick or a thumbtack to make a small hole. Use a wide screw to make a bigger indentation.

  4. 4

    Squeeze a dollop of block ink on a palette. Start out with an amount the size of a dime to make your first test print.

  5. 5

    Roll the brayer over the ink on the palette. Roll in all directions to create an even film of ink on the brayer.

  6. 6

    Run the inked brayer over the foam core block. Be sure to roll in both a horizontal and a vertical direction for full coverage.

  7. 7

    Place a sheet of paper on top of the block. Use your hand or a rolling pin to press the paper into the ink.

  8. 8

    Remove the paper. Assess your print to see if you need to make your lines or marks more pronounced. Add any additional elements with a pencil or other tool.

Tips and warnings

  • Wipe off your plate with a damp cloth before printing with a different ink colour.
  • Mix a drop of ink retarder in with your ink if you plan to make multiple prints at a time. This keeps your ink from drying out as quickly.

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