How to Make Relief Prints

Poster Child’s Guide to relief printing!

A relief print is made by creating a low relief on a flat surface, then coating that surface with ink and pressing paper (or some other medium) to the inked surface to create a reverse image of the relief carving.

There are many different ways to do this, but I will show you a method that works well for me.

First, choose an image. I find it helpful to start the modern way, with a “thinking machine”, especially if your going to include text.
Here is the image I choose with the text added-

Then you’ll need to reverse it:

Of course, you can just work directly on the surface instead. A handy way of reversing text if your not using a computer is to write it out on a scrap piece of paper, then flip the paper over and look at it while holding it up to a light source. This will give you the reverse image.
The next step is to choose a surface. You can print on anything that can be carved and will take ink, so don’t shy away from experimenting with different surfaces. I’ve tried wax, wood, vinyl, MDF and STD board as well as commercially made lino blocks and speedball stamp blocks. The commercially made surfaces are a joy to work with, but quite expensive.

As a result, dollar store hot-plates are my surface of choice. They are like MDF board as they are also pressed pulp and glue, but they are softer and more convenient to get ahold of. They definitely have their shortcomings though. The soft material will lose small sections of detail quite easily and the powdery pulp gets into the ink, causing print blemishes. The worst part is the plastic coating, however. It comes off in little sections and will get stuck on your brayer and on your plate. They can drive you mad. So you may want to try and remove it all before hand, but it’s devilishly hard to peel off.

So with your surface chosen, you need to transfer your image onto it. An opaque projector works best for this, but you can also attempt to draw it, a zerox transfer, or glue your image to the surface. If you draw it, use permanent marker, because it will try to rub off of the plastic coating as you work. (Unless of course, you are more patient than me, and took the time to peel it off ahead of time)

Ok, now you carve! I use speedball linozips, personally. You can use a wide range of tools, including a dremel. (Next to get on my tool list)

Keep going….

Now you need to roll up your block in ink. Use a palette knife or something to spoon a bit of ink onto a clean, flat surface that you will use to roll the brayer up with ink. I use a vinyl tile. The ink I use is speedball block ink. (The Brayer is the roller dealie. You can also brush on the ink, but I’ve never tried it. The Japanese used that method alot.)

Roll the ink out until you have a nice even coating on the brayer. Not too heavy now…
Then roll your brayer onto your block.


Continue untill your block is fully inked.

Press your paper onto the block. I use a drywall sander with a piece of paper attached instead of sandpaper. The official name for such a tool is a “Baren”. You can use also use the back of a wooden spoon, a Japanese baren, a commercially made baren, another brayer, your hands, or your feet for extra pressure.
If your so lucky as to have access to a press, you can also use that, you son of a bitch.

Et, voila!

This first print kinda sucks. They often do, and so are called “proofs”. A proof is a special time to check if the print is how you want it, and to make any changes.
Now you make more prints. As many prints as you can handle. You can lie them flat to dry, but hanging them will save you space.


you can also watch a little TV, why not?

….Ah… “little TV”.
Now you put them up !



Sorry that took me awhile… Hope you like it my guide on relief printing and all that goes with!

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