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Reduction Printmaking with Foam Plates. A STEP BY STEP GUIDE. Materials. Plate preparation: paper (to plan drawing) pencils and erasers foam plates (cut to size) masking tape scissors folders Printing: foam plate printing paper block print ink utensils to dip ink

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Reduction Printmaking with Foam Plates

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Plate preparation:

paper (to plan drawing)

pencils and erasers

foam plates (cut to size)

masking tape




foam plate

printing paper

block print ink

utensils to dip ink

inking surface


cardboard/poster board

registration plates

brayers (for ink transfer)

2 transfer image to foam plate
2 – Transfer image to foam plate

Tape image to foam on one edge so the paper can be lifted to see the lines on foam beneath.

Trace your image onto the foam plate.

Lift the paper and retrace the lines using a blunt soft pencil (an ebony pencil that is dull and rounded works great).

3 complete plate for first printing
3 – Complete plate for first printing.

Areas can be “carved” out with pencils, lines can be widened, textures and patterns can be added. Some areas can be completely removed by tracing several times with a sharp pencil and punching out or by cutting out with scissors or a utility knife.

Put Name on back of foam with a permanent marker.

printing set up
Printing Set up

If possible group colors (warm/cool, light/dark, etc).

A rainbow print station can be set up separately. (This station needs to be monitored more carefully for effective use.)

A sheet of card board or poster board under the inking plates is preferable to newspaper. The paper can tear and stick as printing progresses. The card board can be saved and reused indefinitely.

the printing process
The Printing Process

Students should select their papers and put names on them before the printing begins. Usually this is done the week before when the plate is being completed. The papers are then placed in their folders with their foam plates. This makes hand out quick and easy on printing day.

Students take only their foam plate to the printing station. They dip the brayer in the ink and only roll out a small portion of ink at a time to prevent overloading the brayer. (Only the teacher can replenish the ink from the jar at the inking station!)

After rolling the ink they return to their seat with their foam plate (they can show it to the teacher before printing to check the amount of ink and determine readiness).

They place their plate ink face down on their paper flip and roll on the back with a clean brayer.

Students should roll on the back of their paper not on the back of the foam plate. It is easier to make sure the plate has been printed well and any finger prints , marks, etc. are on the back of the paper where they won’t show later.

registration options
Registration Options

If registration is an issue the students can use a registration block supplied at their table. Paper can also be copied in advance with a registration line. Usually however, visual registration for future printing works very well.

4 print the first color
Make sure to print all the prints you want to end up with at the end of the project. Remember that because this is a reduction process you cannot go back and add prints once the plate has been changed!4 – Print the first color.

The entire plate can be one color (this works best for most projects) or you can roll in sections. For example, the sky above the horizon line can be a different color from the water in a seascape.

5 reduce the plate
5 – Reduce the plate

Go back into the plate and add lines and shapes, patterns, textures, details, etc. The plate can also be cut into pieces with a pair of scissors. Keep pieces big, cutting into no more that four or five pieces if you plan to print them separately.

Marker can be added to the print margins, rainbow prints can be made, colored pencil and pastels can be added over the inked areas. Paint can be added over the prints, plates can be cut apart and glued to cardboard with space between pieces, plates can be reversed and printed in layers of different colors, prints can be cut apart and collaged back together, additional papers can be cut and glued to the prints, the possibilities are endless.