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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002
  • Tues. – Fri. 10am – 4pm
  • Saturday 10am – 5pm
  • Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Visit the carle

Copyright © 1969 and 1987 by Eric Carle Butterfly from The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Making Art Together

Printing with Stencils

we like to use this technique, and variations on it, to help students understand the offset printing process. Offset printing is how picture books, and many professionally printed paper materials, are created. Here's a rundown of the materials, process and variations you might try at home or in your class.

monotype printing with stencils materials


Construction paper or magazine pages for the stencils


Watercolor paper, cardstock, or heavy drawing paper to print onto

Red, blue and yellow tempera or poster paints (or magenta, cyan, yellow and black if you want to more closely replicate the offset printing process colors)

Brayers or small foam rollers from a craft or hardware store

3 plastic plates, or foam trays.  Anything non-absorbent with a bit of a rim works well.


Start by cutting shapes out of pieces of construction paper.

Both the negative and positive shapes can be used as stencils. Then, arrange or overlap your shapes on a larger piece of paper. 

arranging stencils

Prepare each of your paints in a separate paint tray.  Start with one or two spoonfuls of paint along the top of the tray.

Roll your brayer back and forth, in one tray to coat it evenly with paint.  Then roll the brayer slowly over your stencils. Cover the whole surface of the paper or just an area.

inking the brayer roller

rolling paint

Peel away the stencils to reveal the print you created.  While a brayer is not in use, rest its handle on the edge of the tray to help keep your hands clean.

peeling away the stencil

Overlap multiple colors or a variety of stencils to create a unique print with depth and contrast. Use a separate brayer when rolling out each color to avoid unintentional mixing. You might want to let your paper dry for a couple of minutes between each color.

final art

Explore Some More

What new shapes can you make when you overlap stencils?

What new colors can you make by overlapping colors?

Design a pattern by repeating the same stencils across the paper.

Try cutting a stencil in a new way– folding, cutting into the side, cutting out one shape to make another.

monotype printing with stencils

We love this exploration because it allows each artist to work with whatever shapes or images appeal to them. Each artwork created is unique and reflects the style of it's maker.

Have you tried an exploration like this yourself or with your young learners? Feel free to share your tips and variations!


by Meghan Burch

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 3:10 pm and is filed under By Meghan Burch, Elementary School, Middle School, Painting, Paper, Printmaking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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