Carving Your Block: How to Block Print Your Own Tea Towel

Carving Your Block: How to Block Print Your Own Tea Towel

The big day has finally arrived! We've spent weeks talking about the basics of printmaking and we've created a precise drawing worthy of turning into our first print! Now comes the fun: it's time to carve! So let's dive right in...

First, we need to transfer our drawing to our block.  I like to do this with as few supplies as possible, so here's what we will need

1) Linoleum block

2) Drawing completed on lightweight (copy) paper in a number 2 pencil.

3) Ball point pen

4) Transparent tape

5) X-acto blade

6) Carving tool

I like to trim my drawing down so I'm not doing any extra work in the next steps. Using scissors, cut the excess paper around the drawing.  Then, place your drawing face down on your linoleum block so that the pencil marks are touching the linoleum.  Use a couple pieces of transparent tape to secure the drawing to the linoleum block.  Grab your ball point pen...

Start scribbling!  This is a good place to get out some of your frustrated energy!  You want to use firm pressure and scribble all over the back of your drawing, pressing the pencil marks (that are on the other side of the paper) into the linoleum block. 

Keep scribbling until you have covered the entire back of your drawing thoroughly....I promise this actually works!

Once you've covered the back of your drawing, take a peak and see how you did (without removing the tape).

If you notice any places where the drawing didn't transfer, place your drawing back down and do a little more scribbling on the back side.  Once you are satisfied, remove the paper from the block.  Like magic, your drawing has been transferred to your block in a mirror image!

We want our drawing to be in reverse at this stage.  When you print it, it will look just like your original drawing.  If you have any words in your print, you'll want them to be a mirror image on your block at this point.  If there are any places on your block that you want to touch up your drawing, you can draw directly on the block, just don't press too hard and know that it is difficult to erase mistakes.  

I like to use an X-acto blade to trim my block down closely around my drawing.  You can leave the excess, just remember you'll need to carve it if you leave it!

On to the carving! You've practiced and practiced and feel comfortable carving into your final block now, right???  No worries if not, it's all fun and games and every print is a practice to help us be better the next time we try! Get your carving tool and get started.

I like to start by carving the outline of my print first.  I like to use the #2 blade for this.  I find it is better to use a deeper blade (like the #2) when I am planning to print on fabric.  You can use the #1 (small and shallow blade) for the outline and fine detail if you like, but just remember: fine detail prints better on paper than on fabric. 

After I cut the outline, I go back and cut out the spaces that I want to appear white in my print. I like to alternate blades to get different textures in my print.  In this block, I used the #2, #3 and #5 blade.

Remember that the angle at which you hold you blade to the block is important.  You only want to carve away the top 1/4 to 1/3 of the block.  This is best achieved if you hold your blade at an angle LESS than 45 degrees.  See the pictures below.  If you only your carving tool at an angle greater than 45 degrees, you'll carve too deep and run the risk of gouging a hole in your block. 


It takes some time to carve a complete block, so go slow and take breaks. Remember to start with less.  You can always go back and carve away MORE but you can't put block back after you've carved it out. Don't forget to outside of your drawing too.  You can carve it out, create a background, or use the space for more patterns and texture.


Once I've finished carving out my design completely, I like to trim away the hard edges with an X-acto blade.  I find that the sharp corners leave marks on my prints that I don't love, but that's totally a personal preference!

Hooray! Congratulations! You've carved your first block! Next week we will talk about printing on paper! Happy carving. 

Oh and one last tip!! Make sure to keep your fingers behind your carving tool!  One slip and you could draw blood with a sharp carving tool.  It's easy to loose control when you are applying pressure to cut.  So make sure to keep those finger tips safe! Never hold your block down with fingers in front of your blade.






Back to blog

Leave a comment