a poor (wo)man’s printing alternative…

Contrary to my usual opinion of forced creativity, I often find that holing myself up and waiting for inspiration to strike has its benefits.  Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes before I know it, I’ve been in the studio for twelve hours and have a prolific amount of work to show for it.

As is the case with this image. While unemployed a few years ago I got into a printing phase. At a local art store I found some foam printing sheets (a smooth, dense white foam with adhesive backing) that provided a cheap, easy alternative to the laborious wood blocks I seemed always to start and never finish. It was cheap enough (about $2.50 per 8.5″x11″ sheet) that I could experiment without breaking my budget (aka the change in my drawer), but also so versatile that I soon began using it to print on fabric and other materials.

Best of all, the only tools required are the foam sheet, a piece of cardboard (or wood for durability) and some sort of writing instrument to draw on the foam. A ball-point pen works fine; depending on the thickness of the line you desire. Because the foam is so pliable, it is easy to create multi-layered/ colored images by just cutting out the part you want to change (the feather, below) and using that as your new print block.

In this image, On the Wind, I was inspired by a feather that kept catching the wind so it looked like it was floating upwards.

Title: On the Wind
Inspiration: nature; wind currents
Medium: Foam block print on paper
Dimensions: 4″x6″
Price: $20; multiple available. 

2 thoughts on “a poor (wo)man’s printing alternative…

  1. Thank you for the idea of using foam to print! I usually carve out wood but this seems like an easier and cheaper alternative as you pointed out 🙂

    Once you’ve inked up the image, do you put it through a printing press or do you simply place it onto the desired surface? I’m thinking of trying this as the first way isn’t too convenient (I don’t have access to a press at the moment)


    1. When using foam I’ve rarely felt a need to use a press. The few times I’ve tried it, it was actually too much pressure and the foam condensed too much, distorting the image. I usually find something smooth to use as a brayer once the block is on the paper, and just hand-print it. The smooth bottom of a glass cup seems to work well, as does the heel of your hand or anything you can get some leverage with without ruining the paper (you can also put an extra layer of fabric or cardboard on top of the paper to protect it.)

      Please let me know if you have any other questions! This method is SUPER easy and I’d love to see what you come up with.


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