There is something special about block prints. Not only do they look beautiful, a well done block printed object somehow makes you feel so good. Yes, it is the feel good factor! And how nice it would be if we can do our own block printing! So, want to start making beautiful block prints on your scarves, tees, bags or basically anything? Here are a few tips.
Let’s start with the basics. First, what is it that you want to print on? Paper, or fabric. We would say is that any flat, clean and dry surface is fine. A flat cotton fabric (washed, no sizing, etc.) would be fine for practice.
And then comes a very crucial step: The block Print Design. What designs would you like to print. We recommend that if you are a beginner, then start off with simple designs. Simple designs can look as pretty as any complex one. As you get better, you can graduate to more and more complex ones. Make your own, or visit some block print websites. They give great ideas for the beginners. And then almost anything can be your block. Even a lemon!
Some even made beautiful stamps out of old wine bottle corks!
Ah, but back to the basics. Next important thing are the tools. What tools will you need? First of all, you need a block to block print, duh. Linoleum are good to work with. You can buy linoleum blocks online or at a store in order to carve out your own designs. If you are not into linoleum cutting, you may buy wooden blocks with ready to print designs on them.
There are websites with good instruction on linoleum and other material required.
The next important ingredient is ink. The choice of ink depends upon you – you may buy ready to use oil or water based fabric colors. Or if you’re really DIY, you could also make your own natural dyes at home. You’d also need a roller or sponge in order to transfer the ink to the block. Other essentials include a cardboard, gloves and a cutter or carving tools.
Once you’re all set with the tools, it’s time to go. First of all, make sure that the fabric you want to print on is clean and well-ironed. Now fix this fabric onto a flat surface, so that there are no crumples. If it’s a layered fabric, like a T-shirt; make sure you insert a piece of cardboard in between layers so that the dye doesn’t seep through.
If you’re using a linoleum block, carve out your own design on it using the carving tools. The design to be printed should be intact, whereas the remaining areas need to be cut off. Keep in mind that whatever design you carve out will be printed as a mirror image. So if you’re going to letter something, make sure you do it on paper first and then trace it backwards onto the block. Now that your block is ready, it’s time to ink it. You may make your color blend in a dish, roll a roller onto the color and then transfer the ink to the block. Another method is to soak a piece of sponge in the desired color, and then press the printing block onto the sponge.
Once the block is covered in ink, test it by pressing firmly onto a sheet of paper or a small napkin. Adjust the spread of ink and the pressure of the application in order to get the desired print perfectly. Now get started on the actual fabric. Make sure to reapply the ink on the block after each print. You can use the same design all over the cloth or even a combination of 2 or more designs. Do not look for perfect prints or perfect color gradient in each print. The beauty of handicraft lies in its individuality and slight imperfections.
Once printing is done, you need to finish fixing the dye. The process of fixing will depend upon the type of dye used; some dyes need to be dried in the sun for a period of several days, while others only need to undergo a round of ironing. Once fixed, go flaunt your customized, handmade block-printed fabric.
A dress, a bed-sheet, a bag or a scarf, what are you block-printing today?