Beginner's Guide to Block Printing Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is block printing?
  2. Materials needed for block printing
  3. How to prepare your block for printing
  4. How to apply ink to your block
  5. How to make a block print
  6. How to clean and maintain your block
  7. Tips for successful block printing

Imagine creating a piece of art with just a block and some ink. Sounds simple, right? Well, that's block printing for you. This age-old technique allows you to create beautiful and unique prints, and the best part is you can do it at home! In this beginner's guide, we are going to break down all you need to know about how to block printing, from materials to maintenance. So, let's dive in and get inky!

What is Block Printing?

Block printing is an ancient art form that originated in East Asia. It's a simple and fun way to create your own prints using a carved block, ink, and some paper or fabric. Think of it as a DIY stamp. It's a great way to express your creativity and add a personal touch to your home or wardrobe.

So, how does it work? The process of block printing involves carving a design into a block — this could be wood, linoleum, or even a potato if you're feeling adventurous! Then, you apply ink to the block and press it onto your chosen surface. The result is a mirror image of your carved design. It's a process that requires a bit of patience and precision, but trust us, the end result is worth it!

Here's a quick rundown on how to block printing:

  1. Carve your design into your block. Don't worry, we'll go into more detail about how to do this later.
  2. Apply ink to your block. This can be done using a roller or brush.
  3. Press your block onto your chosen surface. This could be paper, fabric, or even wood!
  4. Peel off your block to reveal your print. Voila! You've just made a block print.

Tip: Remember, your print will be a mirror image of your design. So if you're planning on using text, make sure to carve it in reverse.

Now that you know what block printing is and how it's done, it's time to gather your materials and get started. In the next sections, we'll guide you through all the steps on how to block printing, from preparation to clean-up, so stay tuned!

Materials Needed for Block Printing

Starting a new craft, such as block printing, means gathering a few materials. But don't worry, you won't need to raid an art store to get started. In fact, you probably have some of these items lying around your house already! Here's what you'll need:

  • Block: This is what you'll be carving your design into. You can use a variety of materials such as linoleum, soft rubber, or even a potato for smaller, simpler designs.
  • Carving tools: To carve your design into your block, you will need a set of carving tools. These usually come in various sizes for different detailing work.
  • Ink: This is what will bring your design to life! Block printing ink is usually water-based and comes in a variety of colors. You can experiment with different shades to create unique prints.
  • Brayer: A brayer is a type of roller that you'll use to apply ink evenly to your block. It's an essential tool for how to block printing.
  • Paper or fabric: This is where you'll be printing your design. The choice of paper or fabric can greatly affect how your final print looks, so choose wisely!
  • Baren: This is a tool used to apply pressure to the back of the paper or fabric to ensure a good ink transfer from the block. If you don't have a baren, a spoon can do the trick!

And there you have it — the basic materials you need to start your block printing journey. Remember, you don't need the fanciest tools or the most expensive materials to create great art. The most important thing is to have fun and let your creativity shine!

How to Prepare Your Block for Printing

Preparing your block for printing is a key step in the process. It's like sketching out your masterpiece before you start painting. And it's simpler than you might think! Let's get to it:

  1. Choose your design: The first step is to choose a design. It can be anything — a pattern, a picture, or even a word. Keep in mind that the design will be reversed when printed. So, if you're using text, make sure it's mirrored!
  2. Transfer your design: Once you've chosen your design, it's time to transfer it onto your block. You can lightly sketch it with a pencil or use a transfer paper for more detailed designs.
  3. Start carving: Now comes the fun part — carving! Start by carving out the areas you want to remain uninked. Be careful and take your time. Remember, it's easier to carve more later than it is to put material back!
  4. Do a test print: Before you dive into printing on your final material, do a test print on a scrap piece of paper or fabric. This will help you see if you need to make any adjustments to your carving.

And voila! You're now ready to apply ink and make your first block print. Remember, practice makes perfect. Don't get frustrated if your first few attempts don't turn out as planned. With each block you carve, you're learning and improving your technique.

How to Apply Ink to Your Block

Applying ink to your block might seem a bit intimidating at first, but rest assured, it's pretty straightforward. Let's walk through it step by step:

  1. Choose your ink: There are many types of ink out there, but for block printing, water-based inks are common because they're easy to clean up. If you want the print to be washable on fabric, go for a fabric ink.
  2. Prepare your ink: You'll need to roll out your ink on a smooth, flat surface. A glass or acrylic sheet works great for this. Use a brayer (a type of roller) to roll out the ink until it's a thin, even layer.
  3. Apply ink to your block: Now, roll your ink-loaded brayer over your carved block. Make sure the ink covers all the areas you want to print. Don't worry if it gets in the carved-out areas; it won't appear on your print.

And there you have it! You're ready to make your print. Just remember, too much ink can make your print smudgy and too little may not show up well. Finding the right balance is key, and that comes with practice. So, don't be afraid to experiment and learn as you go!

How to Make a Block Print

Now that your block is inked up and ready to go, it's time to learn how to block printing actually works. This is where the magic happens! Here's how:

  1. Prep your paper or fabric: Make sure your paper or fabric is smooth and flat. You might want to tape down the corners to keep it from moving. If you're using fabric, iron it first to get rid of any wrinkles.
  2. Position your block: Carefully place your inked block onto your paper or fabric. Make sure it's right where you want your print to be. This is where your artistic eye comes in handy!
  3. Press down: Apply even pressure to the block to transfer the ink. You can use a clean brayer, a barren (a tool specifically for this purpose), or even the back of a spoon. Just make sure to press everywhere!
  4. Lift off: Here's the exciting part! Slowly and carefully lift your block off. If you've done everything right, you should see your beautiful print underneath.

And voila! You've made your first block print. Remember, each print will be uniquely yours, so don't stress if it's not 'perfect'. The beauty of block printing lies in the individuality of each print. Enjoy the process and have fun!

How to Clean and Maintain Your Block

Just finished with your block printing session? Great job! Now, it's time for some clean-up. Proper cleaning and maintenance of your block are key to ensure it lasts for multiple rounds of printing. Here's how to do it:

  1. Wipe off the excess ink: Using a soft cloth or a paper towel, gently wipe off any excess ink from your block. It's easier to do this while the ink is still wet, so don't let it dry on the block.
  2. Wash your block: Depending on the type of ink you used, you can wash your block with warm water and mild soap. If you used oil-based ink, you might need a special cleaner. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies!
  3. Dry thoroughly: It's important to let your block dry completely before storing it. Any remaining moisture might cause the wood to warp or the linoleum to crack.
  4. Store properly: Keep your blocks in a cool, dry place. If possible, wrap each block in a cloth or paper to protect it from dust and damage.

There you have it! Cleaning and maintaining your block might not be as exciting as the printing process itself, but it's equally important. Remember, a well-cared-for block can create beautiful prints over and over again.

Tips for Successful Block Printing

So, you have learned the basics of how to block print. It's an art form that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. But, to truly master it, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:

  1. Patience is key: Block printing is not a race; it's a marathon. You may not get the perfect print on your first try, and that's okay. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  2. Quality over quantity: When it comes to the materials—be it the block, the paper, or the ink—always choose quality over quantity. A well-made block and premium ink can make a world of difference in your prints.
  3. Experiment: Don't be afraid to try different techniques, patterns, and colors. Some of the best designs come from unexpected combinations.
  4. Stay organized: Keep your workspace tidy. This not only makes the process more enjoyable but also prevents any unwanted accidents, like knocking over a bottle of ink.
  5. Take care of your blocks: As we learned earlier, proper cleaning and maintenance of your blocks are crucial to their longevity. Treat your blocks with care and they'll serve you well.

In conclusion, successful block printing is all about patience, quality, creativity, and care. Keep these tips in mind and you'll be well on your way to creating stunning block prints. Happy printing!

If you're just getting started with block printing and want to learn more about preparing your images for the process, we recommend checking out Austin James Jackson's workshop, 'How to Sharpen & Resize Images for Print.' This workshop will teach you the essential techniques for getting your images ready for block printing, ensuring crisp and clear prints every time.