Printmaking: Now We’re On a Roll

printmaking stamps
Printmaking is easy and fun with
DIY rolling stamps.

cate pratoOur basement is pretty much my husband's domain. He has his workshop down there as well as his drawing studio. Essentially, it's his man cave. With the laundry facilities on the first floor, I don't have much call to venture down there, anyway.

But the other day I had to fetch a screwdriver or something, and that's when I came across his secret hoard of cardboard tubes.

I say "secret" because, while I'm well aware that he has a stash of random bits of metal, odd pieces of wood, and a general collection of lamp parts, the cardboard tubes were a surprise. I literally stopped in my tracks at the sight of them.

My first thought was, "What the heck is he collecting these for?"

My second thought was, "How can I use them myself?"

I didn't have time to inspect the tubes properly right then. (It is safe to assume that if I go looking for a screwdriver, it is an urgent matter.) But if any of those tubes are hard, I have the perfect plan. I am going to make rolling stamps for relief printing.

I first saw these in the September/October 2009 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. They are easy to make and use recyclable materials and basic art and printmaking supplies. You should be sure to use a strong all-purpose adhesive, like UHU® to apply your shapes and patterns however, as otherwise they might come off when they get wet.

Here is a basic description of the process, by artist Linda Calverley:

printmaking rolling stamp
A carved foam sheet glued to a
cardboard tube makes a rolling
stamp for printmaking.

1. Take a sheet of craft foam and wrap it around your cylinder (such as a hard cardboard paper towel tube or plastic beverage bottle) to measure the width of the foam stamp (width being from one end of the cylinder to the other). Mark and cut. Be sure to leave space on each end of the roller for your fingers.

2. Now measure the circumference of the cylinder, mark, and cut. Make sure the foam fits all the way around the cylinder without gaps or overlaps. Otherwise, this gap/overlap will become part of your stamp design.

3. Draw your design on your foam, cutting it out with a craft knife. You could also punch holes in the foam to make a pattern, or cut wavy or straight strips of foam.

4. Glue the foam to the cylinder and let dry completely.

To print, cover your work surface with plastic and tape your fabric or paper to the plastic. Using a brush, apply color to the patterned area on the roller (or to the strips) or just selected parts. Note: you can use acrylic paints, but inks or fabric paints work better on fabric.

relief print roller
Carved foam
insulation roll.

Start rolling from one end of your substrate toward the other end, guiding firmly with your fingers (instead of a handle, like you would if this were a brayer). This takes practice and it's messy, but just, er, roll with it. It's fun.

If the roller is plastic, you can just rinse it off. If it's cardboard, wipe it with a damp cloth to use again.

Instead of foam, try applying a lace doily, fabric trim, or heavy plastic mesh on the cylinder, the way you would a collograph. You can also play with cylindrical shapes you can cut into, like corks and foam insulation tubes.

Lucky for me, my husband hoards those, too!

P.S. What is the most unusual thing you've ever stamped with? Leave a comment below.

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