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Project

Ink-Block Print Thank-You Cards

Make an impression with ink-block printing, an art form dating back to ninth-century China. A block print is an ink impression of a design carved into wood, linoleum, or other engravable material. Once you've cut out a design, you can use the block to make an unlimited number of identical prints.

Materials

  • Plain store-bought cards, or assorted paper
  • Image of your choice, photocopied to fit card
  • Tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Ink block
  • Linoleum-cutting tool
  • Block-printing ink, available at art-supply stores
  • Paper plate
  • Brayer tool, available at art-supply stores

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Every block print starts with an image. Choose a flower, a particular script, or even a drawing of your own. Use a photocopier to reduce or enlarge the image to fit the card of your choice. Cut ink block to approximate size of card, allowing for a border if desired. Lay tracing paper over design, securing the corners with tape if you wish, and trace with a pencil.

  2. Step 2

    Next, transfer image to block by placing paper facedown and rubbing the entire surface gently with your fingernail or the back of a spoon. Remember, the carving will be a mirror image of the finished print; only uncarved areas will pick up ink -- not the image itself. (If you want the image to pick up the ink, as shown in the wedding-ring and small-leaf cards in the Introduction, cut away the background, so the image will be raised. For this technique, your ink block would not need to be as large as the card.)

  3. Step 3

    Carve design into block using a linoleum-cutting tool. Use a small blade to cut details and the large blade to carve away broad areas. Hold the cutter like a pencil, and use your other hand as a guide, keeping it clear of the blade's path. Begin with shallow cuts; if you dig the cutter down into the block, it can cut all the way through.

  4. Step 4

    Squeeze a dollop of block-printing ink onto a paper plate; roll the brayer tool over ink until thoroughly covered with a thin, even layer. Use brayer to coat the block with ink.

  5. Step 5

    Place card facedown over the ink-coated block. Lightly rub the entire surface with the back of a spoon, then gently pull the paper away from the block (it's best to test with scratch paper first; if you're unhappy with the results, wash the block with warm water and dry it with a lint-free cloth, then perfect the carving). Reapply ink for each print. After three prints, wash block with warm, soapy water, and dry it with your lint-free cloth before continuing. Allow your prints to dry overnight. If you notice your prints curling from the wet ink, allow it to dry in its curled position for 24 hours. Once dry, place it between two heavy books to flatten it overnight.