Wood Block Printing: A Blast From the Past Activity

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Updated on Jun 18, 2013

This activity produces art that is striking as well as fun, and you don't have to be a master artist to get amazing results! Wood block printing is an art technique that has been around for centuries and is still widely used throughout Asia. It is a technique that create a relief (a raised image) of a design on a black background. The wood block printing technique has been used on for many different purposes and in many different mediums, from prints on paper for both art and writing, to books and cloth for textile design. This activity is provides an introduction to the techniques of block printing and relief matrix, and builds your child's art and art history knowledge along the way.

What You Need:

  • Black watercolor paint
  • Styrofoam – packing inserts from boxes work great or a clean meat tray
  • Pencil
  • Paint brush or small paint roller (available at art stores and hardware stores)
  • White paper

What You Do:

  1. Help your child cut a square out of the Styrofoam, about 4x4 inches.
  2. Have your child draw a simple scene onto the Styrofoam with a pencil. Make sure she indents firmly into the foam.
  3. Let your child paint the foam's surface with a thin layer of paint and try not to let the paint pool up in the indentations of your drawing. Alternately, you can use a small paint roller.
  4. Then have your child press the paper over the Styrofoam and gently smooth it until it completely covers the foam.
  5. Pull it off of the foam and allow it to dry. You'll be amazed at what stunning results such a simple process can garner!

Did You Know?

  • Wood block printing is commonly referred to as woodcut.
  • Simple woodcut prints can be used several times to make repeat patterns for wrapping paper or borders.
  • This is a great activity to introduce with an art history lesson. The French Impressionists were strongly influenced by Japanese woodcuts.
  • Print making can be very complex when multiple colors are introduced. You and your child can study a multicolored wood cut and observe how many shapes are combined to achieve one amazing picture.

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