I love to share my materials I have found to be useful in my practice. I think it helps to understand the process and the materials used to fully appreciate ones craft. Printmaking is a multidisciplinary medium and the far reach of material and techniques lend itself to exploration, the best part about being an artist! If you are interested in printmaking hopefully you will find this list of materials helpful. I occasionally create videos of materials and process to share.
*I source my tools from Woodcraft.
I have a lovely set of 6 Pfiel tools that are absolutely
essential to my practice. These are very high quality
and oh so worth it. They are varied in size from
2mm to 8mm, v-gouge and round gouge.
They fit in the palm of your hand so your fingers
can guide and control the action of the blade.
Also the half round handles allow you to carve
more delicate lines at a lesser angle.
These can be bought in a set or individually.
*I source my sharpening tools from Woodcraft
Sharpening is one of the most frequent things I do when carving a block. I have found that if I keep my tools honed with a Slip-Strop I rarely need to sharpen them with a stone. I use one made by Flexcut.
I alternate my materials based on the specific needs of my current project
Battleship Grey Linoleum - This tried and true. The smell the texture and density of this product is superb for most of my carvings.
Speedball Easy Cut - The white stuff vs the pink stuff. This is a great product to use when printing on fabric or just wanting to play around with patterns. Smaller blocks are easy to cut, fast to work with and have an instant gratification factor I just can't ignore! Both are great for beginners and younger students. The white blocks are softer and more prone to crumbling. The pink blocks are a touch denser and will hold up much longer similar to a rubber stamp.
My process would be to carve something in the white, find that I use it enough to remake it in the pink materials for longevity.
MDF -Medium-density fiber board. Made by breaking down hardwood and softwood into fibers, combining with wax and resin then forming into panels with extreme pressure. This material does require me to sharpen more often but the way the tools cut though it is a full sensory experience that can't be beat. Found at your local hardware store, this material is relative inexpensive and can be used to work very large. The sculptural aspect of this carved material makes it a favorite for some of my projects. This material does need a certain amount of prep or attention before and after carving.
Japanese Plywood - Shina Plywood - This is the only wood I will use if I'm looking for a natural grain in my work. I have used it for many reduction prints and I'm please with how well it holds up to carving and re-carving after inking.
If there is one thing I like to nerd out on it's my paper. Paper is very specific and can be somewhat overwhelming at first.
*I source all of my paper from Blick Art Materials.
Rives BFK Printmaking Paper - This is my favorite paper to use printing wet. This paper comes in many different tones and black & white. It has a beautiful deckled edge and tears very well when tearing down to size. The price for the specific size is great considering how little scrap I end up with.
Lokta Paper - This paper is a handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal. I use this paper frequently for it's more variegated appearance. The paper is somewhat expensive due to the unusual size. I find I have much more small scrap after tearing down and as a result can get less workable pieces out of each sheet. It is more conducive to hand pulled prints than working through a press. When hand-pulling prints you can watch the print pull trough the back of the paper, very satisfying. I never print with this paper wet, it is just too delicate.
A brayer is a hand-tool used to roll out ink.
I typically use my favorite most treasured, I'd rescue it from the fire... Takach Hand-Brayer (hard durometer)! I have a smaller one because I typically print small (11 x 14 or smaller) They come in hard (60) or medium (35) durometer. The hard is for genuine relief print. The medium or soft is more if you are working in monoprint.
Other brayers I use are Speedball brand. You really can't go wrong with Speedball. I have hard and soft brayers, big and skinny. I have some that are designated for use with specific inks and some that are just for painting with acrylics (I can get off track in the studio from time to time and find myself rolling paint across a giant canvas...what can I say, I'm an artist)
Speedball is a great product overall and budget friendly if you are starting out or just want to experiment in other mediums like acrylic paint. It is always fun to find new mark-making tools after all.
The type of ink you use is dependent on what you are trying to accomplish. I have far too many opinions about ink so please bare with me on this topic! My goal is to be as eco friendly as possible when possible.
*I order all of my ink from Blick Art Materials.
Caligo Safe Wash Ink - My top choice for most of
my printing needs is Cranfield - Caligo Safe Wash ink.
This is a oil based ink that washed away with with
liquid soap and water. It is non-toxic and has a
rating of 6 out of 8 on the International Blue Wool Scale
(a scale that measures the permanence of
color dyes - so that's pretty solid). I buy it by the
tube and not the tin. I have found that I can't use the
tins fast enough and there is always
(no matter what I do) little dried bits of ink from the
edges that become mixed in the good ink.
This ink has such a nice quality to it. It rolls out quite well, very smooth and silky similar to traditional oil based inks without the need for solvents to clean. There are a few modifiers they sell as well but I don't feel like I have needed them too often if at all. I am partial to the sent of the ink, it makes the studio feel complete!
Cranfield Traditional Relief Ink - Next in line is their traditional oil based ink. I only use the metallic range in this line. I have a love affair with their gold! I have been pinning over a new ink, copper, for almost a year but they do not ship it to the U.S. as of yet. They are located in the UK.
Akua by Speedball - I have been playing
with this inks in intaglio for a few years but
just got into monoprinting in 2019 and
they are SO MUCH FUN!
These inks dry by absorption. This lends
well for mono printing or when I'm printing
with my pattern blocks. I love the way the
colors crossover and layer with each other
creating new colors and texture. This ink is
super easy to clean up with soap and water.
Also, because it dries by absorption you can keep it on your printing plate or palette indefinitely. In other words I'm not rushed to roll and print!
The caveat here is the amount of modifiers that are available. It can be overwhelming at first but there are so many great videos online that clearly show how to best use each one.
Another reason I love this ink is I can take it on the go when I'm printing on site with my little mini press!
Speedball - Speedball is a water based product. You can find this ink at any craft store that has a printmaking section (look hard they are never very big areas). I like this ink if I want to print and dry quickly either for the holly jolly of it or if I'm leading a relief workshop where having an ink that dries quickly is of importance. I would not use this ink for a professional print but if you are just trying printmaking out this is the easiest and east expensive way to go. I would say that of all speedball printmaking materials.
They make a quality fabric
printing ink that I love.
It is smooth to roll out
and holds on the fabric
quite well. They make
some great fabric ink colors
that make me happy to work with.
Printing Press vs Hand Pulled Prints
This is a matter of personal preference, affordability, resources and your specific printing needs per project.
If you can get your hands on a press go for it! But I believe in fulling learning ones craft so being able to hand pull a print beautifully is a skill you want in your back-pocket.
I have a Griffin Intaglio Etching Press it has a 17 x 33 long steel bed and is almost 70 years old! She is a gem in the studio!
Baren- A baren is a disc like hand tool with a flat bottom used to burnish or firmly rub the back of a piece of paper, lifting ink from the block.
Hand-pulled prints use a baren - I like to use a
wooden Ikea spoon.
It cost maybe $2. I have a few and yes, I name them.
I have also used a metal spoon but found that it tends
to leave marks on some paper so I switched to wood.
Spoons are good for fine detail or like my prints many
smaller areas of relief.
Speedball Barren soft & hard - I like the soft barren.
It is more expensive at around $25, but it has a great
surface that doesn't leave any marks and is great for
large flat areas.
As I mentioned above I have a Griffin floor model press from the 1950's, her name is Bessie and she has done me well in the time we have shared with each other.
I have used Blick Presses and really like those too. They are far lighter and can be moved around easier than a larger press. They do not have steel beds but it didn't cause me any issues when I used them. They are very affordable. Can be found at Blick Art Materials.
I have also used a Takach press. These are the holy grail of presses in my humble opinion. They come in all sizes and are quite an investment but truly worth it. You can source these directly from the manufacturer, Takach, in New Mexico.
*If you want to try before you buy look around at your local art centers or even art universities. They may offer printmaking classes and should have something to play around on. Also, don't discount craigslist for sourcing a press. You just may get lucky!!