Printing with fruit and vegetables is a perfect introduction to printmaking. You need hardly any equipment, yet you can produce some amazing results and it’s such a simple process that even a young child can make fruit and vegetable prints.
People can be a bit apprehensive of printing, thinking they need an enormous printing press, expensive inks and toxic solvents. While that may be true for processes like etching and for professional printmakers, there are many ways you can print at home without a press or the need to invest in costly equipment. Perhaps the easiest way to start printmaking is to chop up a few vegetables or fruit, dab on some paint and see what happens when you press it onto a piece of paper.
Printing with fruit and vegetables is incredibly simple but surprisingly satisfying. Once you get into the rhythm, it can be a very mindful process as you can lose track of time as your paper fills with pattern.
HOW TO MAKE VEGETABLE PRINTS
First of all, clear a space to spread out and work in. You’ll need room to cut up your fruit and vegetables, make your prints and lay the prints to dry. It’s useful to have a bowl of water or pack of wet wipes close to hand to keep your hands clean. Protect your worksurface with newspaper or plastic sheeting. If you need more hints and tips, read this article about setting up a printing space at home.
WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR PRINTING WITH FRUIT & VEGETABLES?
Vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, peppers (capsicum), cabbages or celery.
Fruit such as apples, oranges, lemons, pears, rhubarb or blackberries.
Palette (or old plate)
Sponge or paintbrush
HOW DO YOU MAKE FRUIT & VEGETABLE PRINTS?
Cut your vegetables in half. Blot the cut side with newspaper or kitchen paper as the paint won’t stick to a surface that’s too moist. You’ll probably get a better print if you can leave the cut side to dry out for a few hours and juicy fruit like oranges or lemons may need to dry out for a day or two.
Lay your sheet of paper on top of something with a bit of give like a folded newspaper, a magazine or yoga mat as you’ll get a better print than if you print on a hard surface.
Put a good teaspoonful of paint onto the palette and use the sponge (or paintbrush) to dab the paint onto the cut side of the vegetable. Then, press the vegetable firmly onto the paper, ink side down and remove.
You’ve made your first print!
When you’ve made a few prints and feel comfortable with the process, start to experiment.
If you cut your vegetable in half horizontally, try another vertically or cut it into slices.
Use different colours. Mix colours instead of using them straight from the tube.
Rotate your vegetable to make patterns.
Make patterns and pictures using different vegetables together.
Don’t limit yourself to using the cut surfaces. Stems and the texture of skins can make interesting prints.
TIPS FOR PRINTING WITH FRUIT & VEGETABLES
Firm fruit is easier to print with than soft fruit. The print above was made with a stem of rhubarb, split lengthwise.
Don’t cut off the stalk as they make convenient handles. If children find it too difficult to hold the fruit or vegetable, use a corn-on-the-cob holder to make a handle.
Ink pads are less messy for children to use than a sponge and paint. They work best with hard, dry fruit and vegetables.
If you’ve been inspired by printing with fruit and vegetables and would like to try another technique, go to our PRINTMAKING page.
At Slamseys, we encourage people to start or return to printmaking on a small scale that they carry on at home. For this reason, we use table top presses and all our inks can be washed out with water, making it easy for people to transfer their skills to the kitchen table or home studio. Details of all our courses are listed on our website www.Slamseys.co.uk.