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How You Can Keep the Long Tradition of Block Printing Alive Today

How to create your own block prints:

It’s easier than you think to try block printing. With a few basic supplies, you can print on paper, cloth, or other surfaces like plastic.

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Here are the basic supplies:

Linoleum, wood, or rubber blocks: This is what you’ll carve the design into. Although block printing got its start with wood, there are other materials on the market that are easier to cut and won’t give you a splinter. One is linoleum and the other is rubber (also called Speedy-Carve). Linoleum is a harder surface than rubber, and it's easier to achieve finer details. The Speedy-Carve is akin to a rubber stamp and can break if you carve too deep into it.

Regardless of your material, remember that all images and text must be cut in reverse. When you flip over the block, it'll mirror the image of what you cut.

Cutting tools: Block printing carving tools are small, curved blades of varying sizes. The Speedball linoleum cutter has a handle that stores the blades when they’re not in use.

Brayer: A brayer applies the ink to your block. This is the last step before you print it.

Ink: Most commercial inks for block printing are waterbased. They're easy to clean, which makes it easier to use your block for other projects.

Printing baren: This tool is optional, but it will help you get a better, more even print. Essentially, it is used to apply pressure to the back of your block as you transfer from the ink to your surface.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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