Wednesday, 19 August 2009

How To: Create Your own Printing Blocks

Today I thought I would share the process of creating some of my block printed book covers - it's quite straightforward and a lot of fun to make your own printing blocks or stamps and you can use them for all sorts of applications.

What you need:
  • Block for cutting:
I like Speedy Stamp for quick results because it's very easy to carve with the minimum of tools, but you could also try wood blocks or lino if you feel a bit more adventurous!
  • A cutting mat or stack of newspapers to protect your work surface.
  • Lino Cutter:
these can be picked up quite cheaply from art supply shops and the one I have has several interchangeable blades, although I mainly use the finest one as most of my blocks are quite small.
  • Stanley Knife or other craft knife for trimming the finished block.

I begin with a preliminary sketch or photograph of my design. For the block shown here I simplified a design I had previously drawn in my sketchbook.

I like to draw my design straight onto the block in pen or pencil, but you could trace it if you prefer. You may find it helpful to fill in any areas you don't want to cut out - remember, anything you carve out will appear as a void in your finished print. Once I'm happy with the outline it's time to start cutting.

Take care, as ever, with your sharp cutting tools and start off just taking little nibbles out of the block until you get used to how much pressure you need to exert and feel comfortable holding the lino cutter. It's helpful to stop frequently and angle the block towards the light so you can see how the carving is progressing. Once you have finished cutting, trim all around the edges very carefully with your craft knife. It's important that you don't undercut the block, ie the base should be slightly wider than the top edge to allow for even pressure when printing.

As you can see I took a bit too much off the bottom point of the flower when trimming it up. Don't worry, one little area like that won't affect the block's usability at all!

At this point you want to try your block out so go ahead and ink it up for a test print. You will probably find that you've missed a bit somewhere when carving, or that some element needs a bit more work, or that there are unwanted high spots on the block. Just go back into it with your cutter and carry on until you're happy with the design, then start making your own giftwrap, cards, book covers etc with your spiffy new hand carved stamp!


  1. Thank you for your instructions. Something else to put on my shopping list for Ally Pally.

  2. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing such great ideas!
    Christina :)