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Printmaking is an important part of art practice and has been used for hundreds of years. Although the technology behind it has changed, the fundamental idea is basically the same. Prints can be made in many different ways, but generally they are made from tiles or blocks that are either low, or sunken relief. Low relief means the background of an image is carved away from the block and sunken relief occurs when the object of the image is carved away. With both of these processes, ink is applied to the block and then printed on paper. By using Puffy Paint to create a low relief tile, students can enjoy printmaking on a regular basis.


Have a large amount of Puffy Paint on hand, as students tend to go through it quickly. Have pieces of the foam, about 3 inches by 3 inches available.


Note:  The example image of Norval Morriseau’s print will be on display for the class to refer to show the practice of print making.

  1. The class will take the time to discuss the subject matter of his imagery and how it reflects nature. Following the short discussion, students will be told that they are going to create their own print block in order to do print making.
  2. They will be told about the difference between low and sunken relief and that they are going to make a low relief tile. Students will be instructed that they need to come up with a concept for their relief tile.
  3. Students will do preliminary sketches for their prints. Ask students to keep their imagery relatively simple because with the medium they are using details may get lost.
  4. Once students have chosen which design they want to use they need to trace over their design with pencil until it is quite dark. (Using a soft pencil is best for this project, a 4B-6B) The reason for this is that it allows for the image to now be transferred to the flexi-foam.
  5. The drawing will need to be pressed down hard on the flexi-foam and the pencil will transfer over so that the Puffy Paint will have guided lines to follow.
  6. Students will now be given the Puffy Paint and told to trace their pencil marks. They will be careful to not allow the puffy paint to be too thick as it will take away from the detail.
  7. The puffy paint will have to be at least 2 layers high. In order to do this, they need to apply one full layer around the tracing of their drawing and allow it to dry for a few minutes. Then they need to go over the first layer again, being careful to go directly on top so as to allow for it to become taller, rather then wider.
  8. At this point students need to wait a few moments for the Puffy Paint to dry. After it has dried, they then need to apply the paint to their relief tile. This can be done with a print roller, or a paintbrush.
  9. Students will be instructed not to apply too much paint, as it will detract from the print.
  10. Once their tile has paint, they are free to start stamping the print. They will apply the prints to their piece of Bristol board.
  11. Students will be encouraged to try using a variety of paint colours, and applying it in different ways. Ask them to see what difference it makes if they apply more versus less paint. Which do they like better?
  12. For students who have finished the initial printmaking activity on the Bristol board, they can take the time to decorate the background of their print, and add additional details.
  13. After all the prints are complete and dry (probably the next day) students will hang their work up in the classroom. Have a discussion period where students talk about the print making activity and what they liked or did not like about printmaking. It is important to discuss art and what methods students like and open the dialogue about art making processes.

Tips and Tricks

If soft pencils are not on hand, overhead markers can be used for the line transfer as long as the process is done relatively quickly so the ink has not had the opportunity to fully dry.