Meet Your Instructor
Hi! I’m Marie Le Moal, a creative based in the South of France. My favourite mediums are block printing and calligraphy, and I love to combine them to create beautiful snail mail pieces. I had wanted to try linocutting for a long time, but it’s only when I discovered that you can carve on rubber blocks and use ink pads that I jumped in! It makes the whole process easier and much less messy.
I have been reading the TPK blog for many years, and I am beyond happy to share a tutorial here. Grab your cutting tools, and let’s get carving!
1. Gather Your Block Printing Supplies
To get started with block printing + making the card in today’s tutorial, you will need a fey key supplies. See the list below the photo to find links.
- Pencil, ruler & eraser
- Ziller Soot Black ink
- Two Inkpads (For this tutorial, I used Versafine Clair Twilight and Golden Meadow. However, any inkpad will do.)
- Free printable template featuring a branch design
- Soft carving rubber block
- Straight pen holder fitted with EF66 nib, or your favourite holder/nib combination
- 5” x 5.5” (14.5 x 14.5 mm) cardstock card (or similar size)
- X-Acto knife
- Tracing paper
- Lino-cutting set (budget-friendly beginner set or Pfeil gouges)
2. Trace the Branch Template
Cut your piece of tracing paper so that it’s a little bit larger than the branch from the printable template. Then, place the tracing paper over the printable template. Now, trace over the branch with your pencil.
3. Transfer the Design to the Carving Block
Flip the tracing paper onto the rubber block so that the pencil drawing is in contact with the block. You may use washi tape to prevent the tracing paper from moving, or just hold it firmly. Keeping the paper still is the key to transferring a nice, clean drawing that will be easy to carve.
Now, start rubbing the tracing paper with your thumb, which will transfer your pencil drawing to the block. Use your other hand to hold the block in place. Make sure you’ve rubbed over the entire branch before removing the tracing paper from the block.
Once the pencil design has transferred onto the block, the design is ready to carve!
4. Start Carving
First of all, this simple safety rule must be observed. Always carve away from you. The gouge/cutting tool should never be pointed towards you. Don’t forget to keep the hand that’s holding the block away from the gouge trajectory in case of a slip, as well!
Using the X-acto knife, cut a piece of rubber block that’s slightly bigger than your design. This manageable size will allow you to rotate the block freely when carving.
Now, insert the smaller blade from your kit into the handle. With the block printing/relief printing process, it is important to remember that what will be printed is whatever has not been carved away. In this tutorial, every black line or area on the block will be preserved (as in: not carved), while every blue area will be carved away. Remember: “black (pencil) stays, blue goes away”!
Before jumping into carving the branch, practice on a scrap piece of rubber block! The goal is to carve deep enough for the design to show on the print, but don’t carve too deeply. Otherwise, it will be difficult to carve accurately with your cutting tool. The line width that you cut depends on the pressure you exert on the cutting tool; the more pressure you exert, the wider your line will be.
Start carving along the line of your design until you have gone around the whole branch.
A couple of tips:
- Rotate/move the block rather than your hand.
- Take your time! Carving is a slow process. If you need to rest, or move your hand and take breaks as needed.
- Don’t worry if you can’t carve perfectly along the drawing.
5. Finish Up
Now, with the larger (size 2 or 3 if you use the Speedball set) blade, carve away all remaining blue areas. Try to consistently carve a couple of millimeters deep.
Run a test print of your stamp! I used the “Twilight” Versafine Clair ink pad in the photo below.
At this point, you can correct any imperfections or details that you don’t like, but don’t get too picky! Imperfections are what make hand-carved stamps so special.
Make a Card!
Now, you can use your stamp in order to make a card with an easy wreath. First, draw a faint pencil circle, then write a greeting in the center of the circle. Ink your stamp and print it along the circle guideline. Repeat the process twice without re-inking (to make a total of three branches).
Keep printing along the circle, slightly overlapping the branches.
The darker branches form the core wreath, while the lighter shades add depth.
Once your ink has dried, erase any pencil guidelines. Then, if you want to, grab a pencil fitted with an (unused) eraser. Then, use the eraser to stamp berry-ish circles. And voilà! A card motif that you can enjoy making again and again in no time with a handmade stamp.
Block Printing Inspiration
I appreciate that block printing gives me the chance to create graphics that I can use again and again. This technique is fabulous for creating patterns and/or bulk materials (like greeting cards). Get creative with your subjects and your ink colors … the sky is the limit!
To see more of my work, you can visit me on Instagram at @marie.mindthegap. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope that you give block printing a try. (If you do, tag me on Instagram so I can see!) I suspect that you’ll enjoy this wonderful technique as much as I do.