Learn how to create magic paper for printmaking & painting with kids. Project & post by Joanna Walker of The Blue Barn.
Hello, Joanna here again guest posting from The Blue Barn and I’m so excited to be back! Today I’m bringing you a project I dreamed up while back-to-school shopping with my four kids.
This year while shopping at Staples, I picked up a bottle of ink—the kind you use to fill a calligraphy pen. (My oldest persuaded me we NEEDED it to collect feathers and write like the old days).
As I began thinking about this post I had ink on the brain. I initially thought of using the ink with the preschoolers at work, but the idea of lots of 3 and 4 years loose with bottles of black ink was a little overwhelming. I was struggling to simplify it when my idea struck.
This summer we used bleach to dye some fabric in the sun; what if we could apply this to paper? Could we bleach the ink? Well yes! And, our magic ink process was born.
This activity is totally awesome and can be taken in so many different directions depending on the ages of the children you are working with. So here we go…
Important Note About Bleach and Kids
Make sure that you supervise this activity closely as it involves working with liquid bleach, which is an eye, lung, and skin irritant. Do this activity in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors if possible. I would NOT recommend it for young children. Also as a precaution, if you think your age group will end up with bleach on their skin, we recommend kids latex gloves.
How to Make Magic Ink Paper
- Heavy weight paper – watercolor or mixed media work well
- Black Ink – I used Parker Calligraphy ink (India ink won’t work!)
- Bleach – I used Clorox bleach–it will need sodium hydrochloride in it
- Tools such as paint brushes, toothpicks, foam shapes, letters, etc.
- Kid sized disposable gloves
Step 1: Brush ink onto paper
Use a paint brush to cover a piece of paper with the black ink and leave to dry. You may want to go to the edges of the paper for this or just have your child color a section of the paper. We tried both which you will see in some of the later pictures.
Leave paper and ink to dry.
Step 2: Paint or print with bleach
Now that you’ve created your black paper, it’s ready to use. The bleach takes the pigment out of the black ink––be sure to watch your clothes and table cover it’ll bleach them too! Depending which project you decide to tackle your set up will vary.
Here are the three ways we used our magic paper:
3 Ways to Use Magic Ink Paper
1. Printing with Foam Shapes
Lay out the black paper and next to it place a small dish with a folded kitchen towel that’s been soaked in bleach.
This method is probably my preferred way to work with bleach with the younger crowd because they can’t accidentally spill it or drink it.
We used some letters and numbers from our bathtub (the kind they sell to stick on the wall). We pressed a number into the bleach kitchen towel and then pressed the bleached side down on to the inked paper.
When the children lift it up from the black paper they are left with a print.
We repeated this activity with different numbers and letters; we also used some shapes, corks and bottle tops. This is a great way to work on printing with kids and they find the magic reveal fascinating.
2. Draw or write freehand
The slightly older crowd enjoys this one. It’s especially good for those headed off to school as it makes practicing sight words and spelling a little more fun! For sight word practice, I suggest supplying magnetic letters so they can play with the letters to create new words to copy.
For this I supplied the children with a little jar of the liquid bleach. Do not leave children unattended with the bleach and please remind them to be careful and DO NOT drink the bleach.
For the self portrait, I provided a paint brush, jar of bleach and a small mirror. Let them paint the bleach onto the inked paper using a paint brush. The kids were asked to look at the details of their faces and paint them onto the magic paper.
3. Magic Ink + Bleach Nature Prints
This is probably one of our favorite ways to use the magic paper. After seeing lots of prints on fabric using leaves, we decided to create some nature inspired prints on our magic paper.
We began by dipping some flower heads into the bleach. Then we lifted them out, gently knocking the excess drips off and pressing the flower head onto the paper.
After printing a flower, we collected a few leaves from the yard.
We painted the underside of the leaves with the bleach using a paintbrush. Once we covered the leaf we flipped it over and pressed it down on the paper. Then we lifted it up to reveal the most beautiful print of the underside of the leaf!
We even tried a fern, how pretty!
Thank you for joining me over on The Artful Parent, I’d love to hear your comments if you try this yourselves at home or school.
About the Author
Joanna Walker is the creator behind The Blue Barn which offers art experiences for children, and she teaches preschool art classes part-time. She’s a mom to four children ages 13, 11, 9 & 7.
If you’d like to see more ideas from Joanna, you can check out her blog, Blue Barn Living. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Her favorite place to hang out online is Instagram for the positive, supportive community of each other’s creativity– and there is SO much inspiration to be found.
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