Block Printing

What is block printing?
davila-block-printing-b
Fabric block printed by Jane Dávila

The art of block printing on textiles goes back over 2,000 years. While the first blocks for printing were made from terracotta or clay, those carved from wood proved to be the most prevalent. Wood blocks allowed for intricate designs to be captured on a sturdy surface that would stand up to repeated use.  Blocks were printed onto cotton, silk, and linen with dyes, inks, and paints. Wooden blocks are still carved and in use today in the textile industries of countries such as Indonesia and India, and are popular among today’s textile artists.

Create Your Own Printing Blocks with Simple Supplies

Fiber artist Jane Dávila has developed a method of making printing blocks for those of us who love the look of traditional wood block printing, but aren’t too keen on creating your own from wood. Her printing blocks are composed of a piece of acrylic used as the base and a sheet of adhesive craft foam. Acrylic can be found and cut to size in most frame stores or in stores that sell glass and plastic. It’s available in many thicknesses, but Jane suggests 1/8″ for these blocks.

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric (Jane uses fat quarters or ½ yard pieces of canvas or cotton)
  • Acrylic squares in sizes from 4″ x 4″ to 6″ x 6″
  • Sheet of thin adhesive craft foam
  • Drawing paper and pencil
  • Craft knife and self-healing mat or small sharp scissors
  • Opaque acrylic paint
  • Small foam brushes or a small soft brayer

davila-block-printing-2How to make a Printing Block:

1. Trace around the acrylic square on paper. With a pencil, draw a design within the square. The design will appear when printed as it appears in the drawing; there is no need to reverse it in this step.

2. Place the drawing face down on the foam and burnish the back of the paper to transfer the drawing.

3. Cut out the design from the foam with a craft knife or small sharp scissors. The design will appear in reverse of your drawing.

4. Peel the backing paper off the cut-out adhesive foam and carefully stick the pieces to the acrylic square to create a block ready for printing.

davila-block-printing-15. Apply an even layer of opaque paint to the block with a foam brush. Pay attention to the direction of the brush strokes. Alternatively, apply an even layer of paint with a brayer.

6. Paint side down, press the inked-up block onto the fabric using even, firm pressure. Remove the block to reveal the printed design. Repeat as desired, creating repeating patterns, secondary designs, and more.

TIP: Clean the block before the paint dries. Otherwise, the foam may get clogged which would result in uneven and blotchy prints in the future.

Excerpt from “Around the Block: Create Your Own Printing Blocks with Simple Supplies” by Jane Dávila.

For the full article featuring instructions for creating repeating patterns, choosing the right paint, and more ideas for block printing; check out the October/November 2016 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. Don’t forget to subscribe to Quilting Arts Magazine so you never miss expert advice and innovative instruction from fiber artists like Jane.

If you’re interested in block printing, you won’t want to miss our free eBook, How to Paint Fabric. Download your copy today to unique techniques using a variety of surface design techniques.

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One thought on “Block Printing

  1. Nifty. I began making adhesive foam stamps years ago, but I was sticking them to thicker foam (easy to source and also to cut to size) rather than acrylic. I like that the acrylic is see-through, and it makes me wonder if you could get a double-use out of your stamps by sticking a mirror-image set to the back, exactly on top where the original set shows through for a perfect reversed image – or perhaps to use as a rubbing plate (eg for lettering)…?

    Judith Rona

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