Danielle Falk of Little Ginger Studio shares an easy styrofoam printmaking project using scratch foam. These city scape prints are amazing & make great gifts for family or friends!
Updated November 2022
I know, I know process over product right? I’ve been doing this art teaching thing for over two decades!
And in my opinion, process art is where it’s at! This type of art creates such a rich learning experience by giving kids ample opportunities to explore art materials.
Children are all about sensory exploration of their world. It’s how they learn to problem solve, discover color, shape, line; but also weight, volume, texture, light. The list goes on!
Preschoolers and younger elementary kids improve their fine motor skills while exploring materials. And process art activities lend themselves to collaborations where outcomes are child-led and open-ended.
As you can see I LOVE process art, BUT we all like something pretty to frame and hang up on the wall too right?
Kids can achieve such impressive prints with through such a simple process. These prints are great for making as a gift for family members or even printing homemade Christmas cards at the holidays.
We created streetscapes with our prints and cut out our buildings which could then be easily combined to make a bigger picture. However, kids can literally draw anything they want onto the printing plates.
The most important thing to encourage to get good results is that kids use lots and LOTS of detail. I can’t overstate this!
Styrofoam Printmaking for Kids
- brayer (roller)
- large old bathroom tile / metal kitchen tray / plastic tray
- printing foam (or try polystyrene plates or polystyrene meat trays)
- sharp pencil / ball point pen
- spatula (or paint knife or just an ordinary knife)
- non-toxic, water-based block printing ink (black)
- white printer paper, colored paper, etc.
- tempera paint cakes (I love the fluorescent ones).
- lots of newspaper
- baby wipes (These really help with this activity as the ink is super-messy.)
Time needed: 1 hour.
- Draw the image.
Make sure you use a pencil that has been well sharpened, or else a ball point pen (even a skewer or matchstick will work).
Simply press into the printing foam to draw your picture, making sure not to press through the foam. Also, don’t forget to use lots of detail (think patterns, cross hatching, linework). Anything to fill the spaces or else your print will be predominantly black (boring!).
Pro tip: Steer away from writing as the prints will be mirror impressions of the printing plate (the writing will be back to front). Also, I like to cut away around some of the print so that it can be more easily combined with other prints, but it’s not essential.
- Roll up the foam plate.
Use a spatula to scoop out a smallish amount of printing ink and scrape a line of it at the top of your tile or metal tray. (Be sure to use a smooth, washable surface for rolling out the ink).
Carefully roll out a small amount of ink working the brayer (roller) back and forth and side to side to achieve a thin coating of ink on the brayer. Then use the brayer to roll ink onto your foam plate, until it’s evenly covered. You’ll notice all your drawn lines will show as white as the ink will sit on top.
- Create the print.
You can do this two ways: either place your foam plate face-down on the paper you wish to print on. Or place your paper on top of your printing plate. Either way, be careful to place your image in the middle of your paper. Then apply even pressure, rubbing in circles with a flat palm.
Pro tip: Use newspaper underneath your plate when rolling it up and replace it frequently to keep your work area clean.
- Print on a painted background.
We used fluorescent tempera paints to create abstract backgrounds, carefully painting away all the white. Press your inked-up plates directly onto your watercolor background to create interesting compositions. I guarantee you will be impressed with the results!
I hope you give this printmaking project a try and if you do, please tag us on Instagram! We really enjoy seeing your family’s creativity!
Did you know we have a whole page dedicated to ideas for printmaking for kids. Below are a few of our favorites, which we hope you will try!
More Printmaking for Kids
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