This project is proof you don’t need a lot of fancy materials to create a beautiful print. I just love collagraphs!
If you have printing ink or paint on hand, all you need is just a bit of string, some scraps of cardboard and a little glue to create these wonderful collagraph designs.
A collagraph is basically a collage turned into a printing plate.
A bonus with this project is how pretty the collagraphs look when you are done using them as a printing plate!
It’s like getting an extra amazing piece of art just from going through the process!
This project will require two blocks of time: one to create both the collagraph and the string stamp, and then another to do your printing.
This project is super easy and is suitable for all ages!
Here’s how you can make this Project Artwork at home:
- 12 X 14 construction paper ( I used white and black, but you can use any color you have on hand)
- glue ( liquid, NOT glue- stick)
- scissors (age-appropriate)
- 1, 6 x 9 rectangle of corrugated cardboard ( I just cut a piece from a shipping box)
- 1, 3-inch square of corrugated cardboard
- scrap yarn (about 1 yard)
- scrap tagboard- you can use cut up cereal boxes or file folders- the key is all of your scraps must be about the same thickness.
- block printing ink– I use water-soluble, Speedball for easy clean-up. Dick Blick sells a nice starter set, or you can choose individual colors. The 1.25-ounce or 2.5-ounce size is all you would need. (As an alternative, you could use tempera or acrylic paint.)
- a brayer – I like the Speedball hard rubber brayer with the metal frame, which holds up to years of abuse! (As an alternative you could use a foam roller or just a large paintbrush)
- optional: Scratch-Foam – you really only need scraps of this, so it’s not worth buying the whole pack unless you just want to. If not, you can help the environment and just cut up a leftover foam vegetable tray!
- optional: foam stickers
- foam or plastic plate for printing ink- 1 for each color. (If you are just painting your colors on with paint, only one plate is needed.)
Step 1: Begin Your Collagraph!
Cover your work space with butcher paper, newspaper, or a plastic party tablecloth to protect it from glue.
Make sure you have your 6 x 9 rectangle of cardboard, and set out a bunch of scrap tagboard, scratch foam, foam stickers, etc. You will also set out age-appropriate scissors. DO NOT GIVE YOUR CHILD THE GLUE YET!
You will cut the tagboard (NOT the 6 x 9 cardboard) or scratch foam into a variety of shapes. The key word is VARIETY. It’s one of the principles of design. Encourage your child to cut large, medium, and small sizes. They might decide to cut geometric shapes or more organic shapes.
Once your child has enough shapes cut to fill up the cardboard, instruct them to play around with different ARRANGEMENTS of shapes on their cardboard rectangle.
It is very important that you do not place one shape on top of another. All shapes must be the same thickness. Otherwise, only the top shape will print.
I always require my students to try two or three different arrangements before giving them the glue. This is to instill good design habits in them and get them thinking creatively!
Spaces between tagboard shapes are desirable, because the negative space becomes part of the overall design. Just make sure your child has really FILLED the rectangle; too much negative space and lots of little shapes doesn’t usually pack enough punch to create a focal point for the finished design. By the way, that plastic mesh above is leftover from this Project Artwork. It was the same thickness as the scratch foam and tagboard, so I used it!
If you were able to use any scratch foam or vegetable trays, now is the time to use a pencil to draw in patterns and designs. Don’t forget to press firmly!
Step 2: Glue Your Collagraph!
Once your child has settled on an arrangement of shapes on their cardboard rectangle, they may glue everything down. Glue everything really well, because any shapes that pop off later won’t be able to be added back on unless you want to wait a whole other 24 hours for them to dry!
Students who don’t have much experience using liquid glue can benefit from the following tips:
- Shake the liquid glue down to the tip.
- No waterfalls! Don’t hold the bottle high above the paper. Think of the orange tip as a pencil, “drawing” the glue on.
- Draw a line of glue just inside the edge on the back of your paper. Then draw a bunch of scribbles of glue inside the line.
- Use the orange tip as a “spreader” to smear the glue all over the back of your paper. (You can also use your finger!)
- Don’t just place your glued paper–place AND PRESS all over!
Step 3: Make Your String Stamp!
Step 4: WAIT 24 HOURS FOR COLLAGRAPH TO DRY! (It’s a bummer, I know, but I always tell my students, “Good art takes time!”
Step 5: Print Your Collagraph!
Roll on your ink, or brush on your paint with a paintbrush. Don’t worry about paint smears on the cardboard itself-only the raised shapes will print:)
Place your inked collagraph in the center of your paper. Your child may need help finding the center and keeping it straight. We found it helpful to mark the corners of the rectangle BEFORE printing!
Stand above your collagraph and press firmly ALL OVER the back of it. No pounding is necessary, just a firm pressing over every square inch of the back of it. It will not print well in any areas that are not pressed!
You can print your collagraph in a single color or multiple colors.
Step 6: Print Your String Stamp as a Border Design!
Use your brayer or paintbrush to apply ink to the strings on your string stamp the same way you did on your collagraph. Then, press firmly on your paper.
You may use a single color, multiple colors, alternating colors–whatever your child’s little heart desires!
When alternating colors, I use a slightly damp sponge or baby wipe to wipe the string stamp between colors.
Take a look at these beauties:
If your child loves printmaking, check out these great Project Artworks HERE!