The Best Products for Stress-Free Block and Monotype Printing
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With the right materials and tools, homemade printmaking can be fun for the whole family—yes, really. Some printmaking processes are complicated or require advanced equipment; for screen printing, for example, you need a superfine mesh screen, and lithography uses special ink-bonding and ink-repellent materials. Not so with these products, which generally require little besides a few simple tools, some ink, and your imagination. From gel printing to drypoint to block printing, our picks below are high quality and affordable, and some are simple enough to be used by kids.
Grafix Impress Monoprint Plates
These plastic plates from Grafix are an excellent affordable option for versatile forms of monoprinting. Similar to a monotype, a monoprint results from applying and manipulating paint to produce a one-of-a-kind impression, but monoprints begin with a featureless (ie. not etched or engraved) plate. Thin and flexible, yet durable, these plates can be used with many monoprinting methods, including blocking with stencils, reductive techniques, stamping, and more. It’s also a breeze to cut them into smaller sizes with an X-Acto knife. And if you want to try creating monotypes or drypoint printing, the plates are soft enough to tolerate etching. Serious printers will likely breeze right through these; luckily, Amazon sells these plates in multiple dimensions in packs of 3 and 24. Note that this set of plates is not a true starter kit—lacking paints, inks, or a roller; you’ll have to source those things yourself.
Purchase: Grafix Impress Monoprint Plates, $13.54 on Amazon
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Speedball Gel Printing Plates and Kits
If you’re new to printmaking, we recommend gel printing to start. The relatively simple process involves rolling a thin layer of paint or ink over a gel plate, creating a design with stencils, stamps, or imprinted objects, then laying down and pressing a sheet of paper over the creation to produce a final artwork. Speedball sells high-quality gel plates of varying sizes that are compatible with any printmaking ink; these are reliable options for artists who might already own printmaking supplies. A more economical option for starters are Speedball’s pre-assembled kits. These range from classroom packs that come with everything you need to print, including water-soluble ink and a brayer, to an individual kit focused on tools only. And if you need to restock plates, simply pick up a replacement pack.
Purchase: Speedball Gel Printing Plates and Kits, $12.01–$825.00 on Dick Blick
Gelli Arts Gel Printing DIY Kits
Gelli offers artists of all ages a simplified version of gelatin monoprinting. This is a comprehensive introductory kit that comes with a ready-to-use gel plate, acrylic print in six colors, a smooth-rolling brayer, and supplies to create shapes and textures. The 5-by-5-inch gel plate is easy to wash for reuse and is plush enough to score into if you want to add texture to your prints. Gelli offers a plethora of sets to choose from: Kids will love the animal- and cacti-themed sets, but for more expansive fun, we recommend the card printing and printmaking starter kits.
Purchase: Gelli Arts Gel Printing DIY Kits, $19.99–$22.49 on Dick Blick
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Akua Printmaking Plate
For detail-oriented printmakers looking to experiment with line work, the printmaking mavens at Akua make a high-quality plastic plate specifically designed for monotype and drypoint prints. It’s the same thickness as the Grafix plate (0.03 inch) with a subtly supple and malleable surface for easy incisions. Still, the plastic is tough enough to withstand the force of presses. Ink transfers smoothly from these plates, which are compatible with both water- and oil-based inks. You get three plates to a pack; as with the Grafix product, inks and tools are not included.
Purchase: Akua Printmaking Plate, $16.36 on Amazon
Speedball Deluxe Block Printing Kit
We’d be remiss not to include Speedball’s block-printing kit. Suitable for both teens and adults, this comprehensive set is perfect for starters as it comes with all the basic tools without being too overwhelming. Specifically, it allows you to try lino printing, which involves carving and inking a sheet of linoleum for transfer. You get two types of carving materials to work with: a firm linoleum block and Speedball’s Speedy-Carve blocks, which are softer blocks with an eraser-like texture that’s designed for beginners. This kit also comes with clear instructions and user-friendly tools, including a cutter with five swappable points, four inks, a roller, and an inking plate. The cutter is easy to control while the brayer rolls smoothly and steadily.
Purchase: Speedball Deluxe Block Printing Kit, $50.00–$51.11 on Dick Blick