• Simple Block Printing Tutorial by Marie Le Moal

    For today’s tutorial, I’m handing over the reins to Marie Le Moal, who will introduce you to the world of block printing! I feel so inspired right now, and I know that these instructions will make you want to try out block printing, too. Happy creating! – Lindsey

    Simple Block Printing Tutorial by Marie Le Moal
    In today’s tutorial, Marie Le Moal will introduce you to block printing. You’ll learn how to carve a stamp and use it to make a lovely greeting card! If you like this tutorial, you can enroll in Marie’s class on Skillshare.

    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.

    Hi! I’m Marie. You can see my work on Instagram (@marie.mindthegap).

    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.

    Block Printing Supplies
    1. Pencil, ruler & eraser
    2. Ziller Soot Black ink
    3. Two Inkpads (For this tutorial, I used Versafine Clair Twilight and Golden Meadow. However, any inkpad will do.)
    4. Free printable template featuring a branch design
    5. Soft carving rubber block
    6. Straight pen holder fitted with EF66 nib, or your favourite holder/nib combination
    7. 5” x 5.5” (14.5 x 14.5 mm) cardstock card (or similar size)
    8. X-Acto knife
    9. Tracing paper
    10. Compass
    11. 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.

    Branch Template for Block Printing
    Make sure to trace every black area of the template. Doing this will make the carving process a lot easier.

    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.

    Transferring the graphic to the carving block
    Washi tape — which is sticky, but not too sticky! — is a good option for holding the pencil drawing in place.

    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.

    Rubbing the block printing graphic
    Exert firm but gentle pressure to rub the design onto the block.

    Once the pencil design has transferred onto the block, the design is ready to carve!

    Block Printing Preparation

    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.

    Block Printing Design (Ready to Carve)
    It’s never a bad idea to use a cutting mat or some cardboard to protect your table. I didn’t use one today, but I usually do.

    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.

    Holding the Block Printing Tool
    I recommend holding your cutting tool at an approximate angle of 30° (to your table). Keep your angle as steady as possible.

    Start carving along the line of your design until you have gone around the whole branch.

    Carved Outline for Block Printing
    Don’t forget: black stays, blue goes away!

    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.

    Carved Block Printing
    Once you finish carving, use your X-acto knife to trim the block. Your stamp is now finished!

    Run a test print of your stamp! I used the “Twilight” Versafine Clair ink pad in the photo below.

    Test Printing
    I printed three branches without re-inking the stamp in between the prints to obtain a beautiful gradient using a single inkpad. (We will use this technique when printing a wreath.)

    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).

    Block Printed Wreath
    I used Janet Style calligraphy and Ziller ink to write “hello” in the center of my card.

    Keep printing along the circle, slightly overlapping the branches.

    Halfway done block printed leaf
    Fingers can become inky quite easily when using inkpads! Having baby wipes or a cloth nearby is useful to keep your hands clean and prevent stains when printing.

    The darker branches form the core wreath, while the lighter shades add depth.

    Block Printed Branch Wreath

    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.

    Berries on the Block Printed Wreath
    I chose the Versafine Clair “Golden Meadow” color to complete this step.

    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!

    Block Printing by Marie Le Moal

    To see more of my work, you can visit me on Instagram at @marielemoalart. You can also enroll in my class on Skillshare! 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.