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Printing with Found Materials

Diana MacKenzie

To prepare for an upcoming printmaking workshop for teachers, I recently created a visual example of printing with found materials to hang in the Art Studio.  Once I got started it was clear that there is an unlimited combination of interesting patterns and shapes you can make with surfaces of recyclable plastic containers.

I printed with black and red washable tempera paints onto white Smart-Fab™ Disposable Art and Decoration Fabric but you could use any color ink or acrylics and any fabric or paper.  Smart-Fab™  is available in several different colors and three roll lengths at a very reasonable price.  It’s a great alternative to printing on paper.

The first found material I experimented with was a regular 1-liter plastic seltzer bottle after seeing a pin on Rosemary House’s Pinterest board “Prints and Printmaking.”  One of her pins lead me to the popular blog post by Inner Child Fun about making flower prints with bottom of soda bottles.  Using their idea as inspiration, with a foam brayer I inked up the bottom with red tempera paint and stamped the bottle across the fabric.

If you can use the bottom of the bottle, why not the sides too?  So using a sheet of adhesive foam, I cut a variety of shapes and wrapped them around the flattest part of the bottle.  When inking up the foam try not to get any on the plastic bottle or your print will not be as clear.  The tapered neck of the bottle made a good handle as I rolled it across the fabric.  When I ran out of ink half-way across and needed to reink, it was easy to look through the clear bottle and line up the shapes to keep the pattern continuous.

Other found materials you could print with:

Candy packaging

The packaging we get from glue stick 12-packs

The side of a tofu container

Berry containers

The bottom of a salad to-go lid

What found materials have you tried printing with?


Diana, smiling wearing an orange scarf and brown shirt.

Diana MacKenzie

Public Art Program Educator from 2007-2016, Diana has a BFA in Printmaking from Syracuse University and creates mixed-media works inspired by her travels, combining her interests in printmaking and sculpture. She received her M.A.T. from Mount Holyoke College in June 2017, and continues teaching visual arts to children and adults.