Foam sheets don’t produce the sharp detail of a lino block but they’re easy to cut and make a good basic print. You can find plain and self-adhesive foam sheets, shapes and stickers in craft shops, often in the Children’s section, but don’t think of this only as a children’s activity. It is a great way for children to make prints, but you might be surprised at the results you can get with a little experimentation.

CUT YOUR FOAM SHAPE

Start with a simple design, like a few basic shapes. Cut out your foam shapes with a craft knife or scissors and use a pencil, biro or other pointed tool to make lines on them if that’s what the design needs. Other marks can be made pressing things like fork prongs, darning needle, embossed surface or the end of a pencil into the foam to make indents.

Foam shapes mounted onto Perspex for printing

MAKE YOUR PRINTING BLOCK

Stick your foam shapes onto a clear CD case or piece of Perspex using a glue stick or PVA glue. If you have a complex design, lay your CD case over your original drawing so that you can put the foam in the right place. Using a clear block means that you’ll see exactly where to place your printing plate on your paper or fabric, which is particularly useful if you’re making a repeat pattern. Stick a bottle top on the back with some double sided sticky tape and you have a handy handle to make positioning even easier.

fabric printed with puffins with block

Alternatively, make a block by cutting three (or more) pieces of corrugated cardboard and sticking them one on top of the other, making sure that the corrugations on the middle piece run at right angles to the others, which keeps your block firm. Use a glue stick or PVA glue. You can cut the cardboard to shape, like this puffin, so you can accurately place it down or cut your cardboard to the same dimensions as your card or paper so that it’s easy to line up. Stick your foam shape(s) onto your cardboard block.

If you’re using PVA glue you’ll need to let your block dry, but otherwise you can start printing straight away.

INK YOUR PRINTING BLOCK

Block printing ink works really well with the foam shapes, but you can use acrylic paint or ready mixed children’s paint. If you’re printing onto fabric, it’s worth using fabric ink as it won’t wash out.

There are two ways to ink your block:

ROLLER: If you’re doing a one colour print, it’s often easiest to use a roller. Mix your colour on the palette and roll it evenly over your foam.

SPONGE OR PAINTBRUSH: If you’re using multiple colours, mix your colours on the palette and dab them onto the foam with a small sponge or paintbrush. Sometimes, a combination of both works. Each gives a different effect so it’s worth experimenting to see which you prefer.

Print made with foam sheet cut to shape

PRINT

When you’ve inked your plate, carefully pick it up and lay it ink side down on your paper or fabric. Press down firmly over the whole plate and lift off to reveal your print.

Re-ink and keep printing.

Read Quick Hand Printed Cards for more block printing ideas using foam sheets.