Printmaking for High School

Linoleum Prints Submitted by Linda Erling-Baker, Archbishop Walsh High School
Experimental printing - the Manipulated print.

printmaking printmaking printmaking


Left: three color print with three plates. Center image printed with different colors for emphasis. Nine prints glued together for display. (Click for larger images)


Center and right: Quilt effect - One color prints. Printed on several different colors of paper. Cut apart then glued back together again like a quilt. An alternative to the method would be to cut out the image with X-acto knife (positive shape) of one color print and exchange with another color print to give the appearance of a multi-colored print.



Submitted by: Ken Schwab, Leigh High School,
San Jose CA

UNIT: Printmaking

Level: High School



This is a group of art projects for the high school and middle school levels. I like to use printmaking in all levels of teaching trying, to include at least one type of printing in each year. I feel that anything that is pressed stamped or pushed onto another surface transferring that image to another is printmaking. Intaglio and relief prints seem to be what I like to work with and use in the classroom.


Stamp Printing | Embossing | Wood Block | Mono-printing

Linoleum | Etchings | Collagraphs | Silkscreen


Experimental Linoleum Printing - Manipulated Print - from Linda Erling-Baker

See Tips on using Acrylic Paints for Printingpdf



Sponges., Q-tips., Drawing Paper., Construction Paper., Drawing Pencils., Tempera Paint., Brushes., Mat board., Rives BFK paper., Railroad Board., Batik Wax., Dowel Rods., Saral Transfer Paper., Fixative., Tissue paper., Newsprint., X-acto Knives., black felt marker., Block Printing Inks., U and V gouges., Tracing Paper., Oil Paint., Linseed Oil., Silk Screen Paper., Etching Press., Vellum., Sandpaper, Gesso., Linoleum..


Art 1 - Stamp Printing - using Sponges., Q-tips., Drawing Paper., rollers with string, cards, anything that will move paint.  We do landscapes without using brushes.  First we find a landscape usually looking for trees, water and mountains.  After we discuss and observe the three planes of composition (background, middle ground, foreground) find a picture of a landscape, or the sky from one, the trees from another etc. until you have a subject.

  1. On a piece of Construction Paper. sketch out the horizon, mountain areas, trees (lightly) and any water with Drawing Pencils.. Choose construction paper that has a color that will work with the colors in your resource.

  2. Start with the area that is the farthest from you (the viewer) and choose a tool to transfer the paint (Tempera Paint.). I use a sponge for a sky gradation with Q-tips for clouds.

  3. Next find the middle ground and cut paper to be the shapes of mountains. Paint the paper with Brushes. and quickly stamp print it onto the page. Take a Mat board. scrap and dip the edge into some paint and drag it across the areas in the mountains that need more shade. Look for the dark/light side of the mountain.

  4. For trees and bushes I uses sponges, q-tips and card board to create branches and leaves.  Use three values sponge in the dark and q-tip the lighter areas. Drag the board across to make a bark like trunk and branches.

  5. The foreground area can be stamped with paper, sponged and then for grass, wrap some string around a brayer.  Paint the string with paint and lightly roll it in short strokes, creating a grass like effect.

  6. Generally this painting is done in a few days and the kids like to see the effects without using a brush but instead transferring the paint by other methods- a simple printing technique.

Art 2- Embossing using several levels. In Art 2, I try to teach them how to create a stylized design, emphasizing simplification and outlines.  After showing many examples, I have them create a template or matrix that uses thin 4ply board.  I use a system of numbers and letters to create a layer of thin Railroad Board. levels to be used with soaked Rives BFK paper. and rubbed from the back with Batik Wax. and Dowel Rods. sanded into a flat rounded end. The number/letter system helps them see how to plan the print and to give them a way to make the matrix.

1. Create a stylized design that is, a simplification of form and emphasizes the most interesting aspects of an object. The design must be large 12" x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) using enclosed shapes.  By starting with an "O" level ask yourself if you want the paper to go up or down.  To go Up is a level "1" and down is a level "A". If a level "A" is next to a level "O" the "O" will appear to go up in the print. Be careful to not drop more than 3 levels at any point to prevent ripping when making the embossing. This is a mirror print because it is printed from the back. So reverse anything that must be a certain way such as letters.

2. Have the students copy the template from a handout using small scraps of Saral Transfer Paper. and precut small boards. They make 2 complete tracings of the design and a third of just the "A" levels.  If you use a "B" level then the A and B’s must be cut out together and the "A" level placed on top of that. Glue these down to one of the complete traced boards.

3. Cut out the 1, 2, or 3 levels as one big shape. Place the second traced board underneath it and glue down. Cut out the 2’s and 3’s out of that board and glue down a backing board.  If there are "3"s, keep doing the same thing until all levels have been cut.

4. When you are finished gluing, put a thin layer of white glue and water over the entire matrix and let dry. After it is thoroughly dry spray (outside) with Fixative. to seal it. This makes a hard shell that is not water-soluble.

5. Place a sheet of thin white Tissue paper. (like we use at Christmas) over the matrix. Soak some Rives BFK paper. for at least 10 min. Blot dry with Newsprint. (save and reuse) so that there is no water visible on the surface. Use masking tape to secure the template and place the paper over it. With the Batik Wax., rub the back to start to show the edges of the matrix and continue to go over the entire printed area. With a pre-sanded dowel that has a flat end and a rounded end place the flat side down and push against the edges of the matrix to create a bend in the paper and a crisp edge. Go over only once as it will dry and could cause double lines. Rips are not allowable so be careful to not push down as much as you push against the matrix/template. When finished pull it off and you are done.


Art 3 - Wood block prints, using both sides of the block. In this print I am asking the students to stylize a design and use two colors for the image. They will use both sides of the wood block (pine board 10" or 12" wide by 12" to 16" long /25 or 31 cm wide by 31 to 41 cm) for the print. The first side is printed lighter, usually gray or a light color and the reverse side are black. They must work together in the print and can overlap each other.

1. After choosing the wood for the piece, make a sketch of the desired subject with background on Newsprint.. Trace the outline of the wood and using lines make a quick sketch of your idea. By using a black felt marker. , thicken the lines and fill in areas to be black. Make sure that the black outline design stands alone and will be visible as a composition without any color added. When this is complete, use a piece of Tracing Paper. to draw out the color or light gray areas by looking at how the two values look together, this should enhance the design but not be the design itself.

2. Transfer the design onto the wood with carbon paper to see the outlines of both the black and color areas.  Do this for both sides making sure that the sketches line up with the sides of the wood.  Overlap the edges to make sure that the space between the black and gray are not seen unless you need white in that area.

3. After the sketches have been transferred, color in the areas to print with the black marker, or India ink. and a brush. You will be cutting out the rest of the wood.

4. Begin to cut the wood by using X-acto Knives. and cutting a wedge shape around the edges of the wood to be cut out. After the wood pops out you can take the rest out with U and V gouges., cutting with the grain (always cut away from yourself as to not cut yourself.)

5. Cut all the wood that is not inked in and this will print your design.

6. By using brayers and different colors of inks print the first side of the wood, the one for the color background. Always print the first one, or color area first, the black will cover it.

7. After printing the color /gray side, let it dry.

8. To line up the next block ink it up with black ink, go to the first print and put it on top of some mat board that was cut ahead of time, bigger than the print. Carefully place the side of the black inked with black ink over the first one, lining up the edges to fit. Drop it down and press it firmly. Grab the mat board, and turn it over lift off the mat board and print using a spoon or burnishing tool. This should line up pretty good and then it is complete.


Any Art level- Mono - Prints – Mono-prints are very popular right now and as well they should be. Createx has even created a paint just for mono prints and is water-soluble. When I first started doing the mono-prints, we used oil paint and would use a moistened paper to take off the paint. Now, water-soluble paint comes off easily with hardly any clean up.

1. Prepare a Plexiglas plate that is beveled to ramp up and down in the press.

2. First, oil monoprints - with a clean surface, you can add Oil Paint. with a little Linseed Oil. to another plate and use Brayers. to spread it on. Gradations of values and colors can be done easily and quickly but don’t use too much oil paint as this will squeeze out on the edges.

3. You can remove areas with Q-tips. to reveal light or the white of the paper. This can be done for an extended time, as the oil does not dry quickly.

4. Clean the edges of the plate and soak paper such as Silk Screen Paper. for a few seconds, blot clean and let stand for 5 –10 minutes.

5. Use an Etching Press. and lightly roll the plate through using moderately light pressure. The paint will be removed but the subtle areas of the oil can be seen easily.

6. Let dry between some Newsprint. and a light weight and when dry you can go into it with Colored Pencils.. or ink or pencil or?

7. Createx- monoprints - Use a Plexiglas plate or other flat surface and cut a piece of Vellum. to the size needed. Secure it on all four sides to the Plexiglas with masking tape.

8. Use a dauber of felt and Gum Arabic to lightly coat the vellum and let dry, repeat once more and let dry.

9. Use the Paint like Acrylic Paint., you must thin it to work quickly and not get too much paint built up. The paint is water-soluble and will lift off the Gum Arabic if it is painted too long in an area, this will not print so work quickly.

10. When completely dry, take off the tape and set the velum on a scrap piece of Mat board. that is just slightly bigger than the velum. Use Silk Screen Paper. again with blotting and let stand in the air for a few minutes or more. Set on top and with light pressure it is complete. Experiment on pressure and such to insure success.


Art 4- Linoleum. print blocks, multiple blocks- for one image. Study Andy Warhol and some of the silkscreen prints he did using repeated plates with slight changes in the colors or print quality.

You can see that the separate areas make up the whole format. Stylized designs with large areas can be used but make sure the students don’t design more than 3-4 blocks.

1. After the design has been drawn on newsprint make a tracing of each shape or separate blocks and transfer the sketch to the linoleum blocks separately.

2. After the transfer cut out with linoleum block cutters by making a trough around the raised areas and gauge out the rest.

3. Choose your paper and in the upper left hand side, one inch from the edge of the paper begin the first print. Vary the position of each color as to which one was printed first. Use a group of 6-8 colors and vary the order of the print blocks. Line up each print like we did with the woodcuts but be careful not to wrinkle the paper, and smear the Block Printing Inks..

4. After the first layer of blocks has been used choose the second print to over lap the first. Repeat until all blocks have been printed.

See Lesson Plan: Relief Printmaking Using Photoshop

See Ken Schwab's Niner's - Multiple block prints a la Andy Warhol


Art 4- Etchings - Dry point etchings are incised (Intaglio) lines scratched into Plexiglas and then inked and printed. Student’s can get 5 –7 prints before they will diminish in quality. Plates with hard ink in them will not print any longer. When printing, it is best to not clean the plates after every print, but to re-ink and print again to get as many as possible before time runs out.

1. Make a pencil sketch of the composition, including shades, shadows, and gradations.

2. Use a file and file down the edges and corners of the Plexiglas, use a fine file to get most of it and 400-grit wet/dry paper to make it smooth. Bevel the edges and file down to the base of the Plexiglas.

3. Place the sketch under the Plexiglas with tape and by using a nail into a dowel and sharpened with the files, start to scratch the Plexiglas, creating lines with a rough edge. You must hear it scratch the surface.

4. With daubers and etching ink (general chemical), rub (with great pressure), the etching ink into the incised lines covering the entire surface with ink. Use cheesecloth and lightly rub the cloth over the print surface taking off the wasted ink. Rub the cheesecloth in one direction so as to not wipe too far down into the lines and try to rub across most of the lines.

5. Use q-tips and such to clean small areas. Soak some Rives BFK paper. for at least 10 min. Run through an etching press at moderate pressure with 2 blankets.

6. Clean up is done with paint thinner, outside and a clean rag is used. Leave no film in the lines.


Art 4- Collagraphs - Collagraphs are the opposite of etchings with the same inking techniques.  Collagraphs are raised areas that will trap ink in the lower areas and you wipe off the top layers to keep light.  This is about textures and any kind of design can be used especially stylized or simplified designs. I have used nonobjective designs but more recently I have taken the basic design of a Japanese Kimono as a start and they have used the different textures and materials to fill in these spaces.

1. Look at Kimono designs and start with a T design. Add the belt, collar, wings, etc. and divide it into areas for different textures. By looking at books of Japanese designs and motifs create a design that has Japanese patterns and objects.

2. Choose your materials, tin foil, sand, paper, Gesso., thin boards, paper doilies, string, burlap, folded paper are just some of the materials and techniques. The tin foil must be gessoed first to give it strength, use 150-200 grit Sandpaper., 2ply boards, doilies should be 2 layers thick, glue burlap to a thin board with adhesive spray to cut out easily, Not too thick string.

3. All of these are glued to thin chipboard and they must be thin themselves. Cut and glue down all edges and seams. Cover the entire board with a thin coat of Gesso to seal the fibers and boards. After the Gesso is dry run it through the press to flatten out the raised areas so that they will be only thin areas.

4. After the flattening, put a coat of White Glue. and water to give it hardness and strength. When the glue is dry spray with crystal clear fixative to keep it shiny and slick.

5. Ink up like the etching and wipe the top layers clean. Use a press and blankets with good pressure.


Silkscreen printing- I like an easy way for the student to use silkscreen printmaking with a minimum of screen preparation. You must get some screens, frames and hinged fronts, made with good silk and tight screens.

1. Adhere a film stencil to the screen with a water-based material. Create an opening like a rectangle to be used as the format.

2. After the stencil is dry use a transparent base (oil based) and add some oil paint to it to give it a light color. Mix thoroughly and print the format as a light shape. Create registration tabs. Clean the ink from the screen.

3. Before printing the next run use Lepages glue mixed with water and paint areas you want to save the first color. Let dry and run it through again adding a small amount of oil paint to the base mix to give it more color. Lets say we are using yellow, add more yellow or orange.

4. This has now printed a darker area but the area painted with the Glue is still the first color. Keep repeating this by painting more areas with the glue and changing the ink color to darker orange and then adding blue to dull it and get to very dark.

5. If you keep the original registration tabs and the same paper, you will get a very deep and rich combination of shapes. These can be used for nonobjective designs and stylized designs.

6. Warning! This is very toxic and must be used in a well-ventilated area.  Change the stencil material to use water based inks if the outline stencil is not going to be affected by water.  These are very quick and they love the results.



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