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A few days ago one of our blog followers, Meg, posted a comment asking for more information on the foam printing activity we do every year as part of our four-day program, Animals, Art and Imagination here at The Carle. Check out the original post here (last photo). Keep reading below for steps on how to make your own.
Even if you don’t own a traditional printing press you can create small foam prints using a pasta machine at home or in the classroom. Foam printing has been one of our most popular activities over the years in classes and for special events. Since we go through so many plates here in The Studio we buy 9”x11” white styrafoam trays in packs of 50 and cut the foam into circles using a sharp X-acto knife*. A circle makes it easy for kids to carry and match up the edges of their print if they want to overlap multiple colors. No matter what shape you choose, just make sure the foam plate you cut fit through your pasta machine.
To etch marks into the foam we use ballpoint pens, clay modeling sticks, wooden dowels and bone folders. Light surface scratches will not show up so the trick is to make marks deep into the foam but don’t go all the way through the foam to make holes or cracks.
Carefully roll block printing ink or tempera paint over the surface of the foam plate. Avoid over-inking by counting 2-3 passes over the surface. More than that and you may gunk up your print or the pasta machine.
Press the plate onto a piece of drawing paper slightly larger than the plate but still narrow enough to fit through the press.
Crank the print through on the pasta machine’s widest setting and be sure to guide your plate and paper as it passes through the bottom. If the plate goes straight into the table it could crack or break. Young children can work together with an adult to print. Older children can print by themselves with help the first couple times.
Peel back the paper and you’ve got a print!
Try overlapping your original print in a contrasting color, or go back into your plate to make additional lines and marks before reprinting it.
Wet prints will dry quickly on a temporary clothes line strung below a table or have students stack their prints on a table to keep work organized.
I recommend this project for ages 3-5 yrs. with one-on-one help rolling and printing. Ages 6 + can roll and print by themselves but should have an adult supervise their rolling and printing technique. If you have several children doing the project at the same time setup two pasta machines and two inking stations on opposite ends of the room to prevent crowding.
*Note: Once the pasta machine is used with paints it should not be used with food. Instead of purchasing foam trays you could recycle trays from the grocery store. Make sure they’re properly sanitized before use. Of course if you don’t have a pasta machine prints can be hand printed instead.
Happy printing everyone!