August 21, 2015

Intro to Printmaking at AAC

It only takes a little creativity to learn and employ the many methods of printmaking
It only takes a little creativity to learn and employ the many methods of printmaking

Summer camps here at AAC are known for their exploration of popular media like painting, drawing, and sculpture.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re afraid to explore and experiment with techniques that might involve more steps or take a little extra effort.

Our Intro to Printmaking camp with instructor Jennifer Wilkin Penick did just that!

Printmaking is a form of art-making that allows the artist to reproduce a design, drawing, or image multiple times onto various surfaces, though most often paper. This means that prints can come in all different shapes, sizes, designs, and media!

Our campers tackled a number of the techniques covered under the term printmaking. Check out the different techniques they experimented with and their results below.



In order to create a print from an etching, the artist first covers a metal plate (usually copper) with wax, or some other resist, then a design is cut into the plate using small, sharp etching needles. Once the design is complete, the printmaker dips the plate into a chemical bath, which dissolves part of the exposed metal. The design is now permanently etched onto the surface of the plate. The resist is removed, and the plate is inked. Excess ink is removed, so the only areas that are inked are the etched lines. The ink is transferred to paper using a printing press.

To accomplish this somewhat complicated technique in the classroom students used a simple method with a material called scratch foam soft surface printing board with ballpoint pens. First they incised their designs onto the foam boards. Students then applied ink to the entire board, and pressed a piece of paper to the plate to reveal a reverse image of the original etching.

The goal of this lesson was to learn about incising lines, and how to get a variety of effects when printing.


– A printmaking technique in which images are stenciled or masked onto mesh fabric, and ink is pushed through the fabric onto paper or other media (like more fabric). It often involves chemicals similar to those used in color photo printing, and has become highly commercialized. You might be surprised to know that you see this technique in your every day life. You know that awesome graphic tee you own? Yeah, it was screenprinted.

In camp, students chose or created a design, which they then traced onto a stretched mesh fabric using screen drawing ink. Once the design was dry, the mesh fabric was covered with screen filler.

Handy substances like screen drawing ink and screen filler keep our campers away from the harsh chemicals often used to process screens before printing.

After the image was masked with the screen filler, the drawing ink was washed away to reveal the image that would ultimately end up on the paper. Campers added ink and used a squeegee to push the ink through the screen onto the paper underneath.

The goal of this lesson was to introduce students to this iconic printmaking tradition, learning about its use in pop art and popular culture, in general.

Block printing

One of the oldest types of printmaking woodblock printing has been around since 5,000 BC with its origins dating back to India, China, and Japan. This form of printmaking was originally used with woodblocks, but has been adapted to be used with rubber and linoleum.

To begin, the young printmakers in camp first sketched their design in pencil, which was transferred onto the surface of a rubber block. Students then used tools to carve away the parts of the rubber that they don’t want to show in the final print. They covered the surface with ink, and simply pressed the block onto the medium of choice, paper, fabric, another piece of wood. It’s one of the most direct methods to use when learning and teaching the process of printmaking.

The goal of this lesson was to learn about the tradition of relief carving, and how it lends itself to the transfer of very fine lines in a sharp, clear fashion.


Monoprinting is a method of printmaking that challenges everything we know about printmaking! Masking and stenciling is used in this technique, but instead of multiples or reproductions, you can only make ONE monoprint, and the ink actually goes on before the design. To do this in the classroom, AAC campers utilized the gelatin plate printing method.

Instructor Jennifer Wilkin Penick made a set of gelatin plates for the student to use as the base. The campers created or found stencils to use, and prepared the plates for printing.

Stencil were placed over the inked portion of gelatin to mask out the image and create negative space in the composition. Then, campers put paper over the surface and pressed down firmly and evenly across the back of the paper – this helps the paper pick up the ink. Slowly and carefully they peeled back the paper from the gelatin.

The goal of this lesson was to learn about stencils, masks, and to think about the use of negative space in a composition.

Summer camps wrap up next week, but there’s still ONE SPOT in Book Illustration for ages 7 – 10! This camp is also process-oriented and features advanced techniques, but artists of all experience are welcome!

In Conversation: Nekisha Durrett + Zaq Landsberg

Saturday / April 27 / 1pm-3pm

Innovation Studio + Store

Join artists Zaq Landsberg and Nekisha Durrett for a conversation about the rewards and challenges of public art and the complex nature of monuments and memorials.

Performances by Isa Leal & Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with NO GRIDS NO MASTERS

Saturday / April 20 / 6pm-8pm

MoCA Arlington

An evening of performances by Isa Leal and Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with Ensz’s exhibition NO GRIDS NO MASTERS currently on view at MoCA Arlington.

2024 Art Classes for Kids, Teens, and Adults!

Register now! Classes begin April 7!

Less than 2 weeks left to register! Sign up today to secure your spot in one of MoCA Arlington’s award-winning programs! From drawing and painting to ceramics and mixed media, you are sure to find an inspiring art class. Enrich your creative journey with our talented instructors and explore the world of art in a fun and supportive environment.