Block Printing 101

Posted by on Mar 16, 2017 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Recently when I was delivering this artwork to a show, someone asked me how I had made it. Like the artist pack rat that I am, I replied, “Oh, it’s a collage from prints that I found in my studio.” Those of you who are artists yourselves know exactly what I am referring to. That trove of random samples, cast offs and art boo-boos that collect in bins, boxes and bags around your house. It was to this art pickers’ paradise that I went to a couple weeks ago, looking for help with an art quilt that I was working on.


I found my collection of print blocks. What is shown here are mostly the smaller ones. I have another bin for larger vinyl blocks. After perusing the assortment, I decided that some of these would do, but that I really needed to make a couple more! Plus I wanted to try out a printing ink that I had never used before.

The following is a mini tutorial of vinyl block prints that may inspire some of you to try this yourself.


The product I am using is a ‘vinyl’ block or sheet that is sold by many brand names such as “Soft-Kut.” Years ago it replaced the harder to carve battleship gray linoleum for many artists. It is a great product for small, simple designs. It is similar to a vinyl eraser, only in larger slabs. Once I’ve sketched a design on it (in reverse), I use carving tools to eliminate everything that I don’t want to print.


As you can see the Speedball printing ink I’m using is for fabric as well as paper. I had never tried this particular type before and it is almost like oil-based ink, but washes up with soap and water. My other items are brayers (rollers) and a baking pan as a inking plate.


Here’s a really sexy picture! Keep a bin of water nearby as you work. Whenever you are done with a print block or a brayer, just throw it in the water and it will make cleanup easier later!


Because I was printing on fabric, I needed a little cushioning underneath my block prints. This printing board was made out of a scrap of foam core with thin batting spray-glued on top. (You can use felt if you don’t have any thin batting.) I’ve got my block prints and the fabric pieces I want to print on ready as well.


Now you can see what the brayer is for. I’ve rolled some ink out into an even layer. and then rolled it onto the block print.


The block print is placed face down and pressed into the fabric. Some excess ink may seep through the fabric, but the printing board collects it.


Take the print block off and you have your print.  If you have a scrap piece of fabric or paper you can print the remaining ink off the block to create a faint ‘ghost’ image.


Here’s the water bin again with its growing collection of items waiting for cleanup. By the way the semi-clear block at the top of the picture is a Gelli plate. It will be featured in my next blog post.


Now it’s time to sing the Barney Cleanup Song! Use your brayer to roll away the ink with the water as you sing.


So here are some of the prints I came up with. And below is their audition on my quilt.


Guess what! I never did use any of my prints on this particular quilt. I decided it didn’t need anything after all.

I think by now you know where these prints will be going: into a bin, only to emerge for another project in the future!






  1. Diane Brandt
    March 16, 2017

    Your talent and knowledge just amazes me!

    • Sharon Wall
      March 16, 2017

      Thanks Diane!


Leave a Reply