Thursday, May 8, 2014

Elementary School Art - Styrofoam jigsaw prints - Grade Four

jigsaw relief prints hanging to dry in the classroom

I just completed a styrofoam relief plate printmaking project with 23 grade four students. The theme explored was Medieval times.
Students were challenged throughout the project and had to move through several stages.
These included: 

  • research of subject matter and sketches
  • transfer of sketch to a soft polystyrene plate using tracing paper using ball point pen
  • incorporation of textural elements
  • disassembly of the plate into separate sections
  • application of inks
  • reassembly of individual pieces
  • transferring ink to the paper using hand burnishing techniques
  • printing more than one copy from the same plate surface

clever use of ink application by small tip brush for small intricate areas 

after the plate is cut apart the students to had to reassemble it. Individual pieces were removed one a time and water based block printing ink was rolled onto each piece using a soft rubber brayer.

printing set up. Table for ink application with cookie sheets, ink, non-slip pieces of material to set pieces onto to apply the ink and metal handle soft rubber brayers

 assembling plate with inked pieces 

This project used the following materials:

  • scratch foam plates
  • ball point pens
  • xacto craft knives and scissors
  • black kozo paper
  • Graphic Chemical water based relief printing inks
  • soft synthetic rubber brayers
  • rubbing sticks, spoons
  • tracing paper, layout paper                         

assembly of inked pieces

plate inked and reassembled for printing

placing black paper over the plate and using a brayer to facilitate ink transfer


 mythical unicorn


harlequin suited court jester



 flag with crest

another dragon

prints pinned onto a strip of cork just above the chalkboard


  1. These are great! How did you contend with the drying time of waterbased inks? Seems like it would take some time for students to ink and reassemble a lot of pieces. Damp paper?

  2. thanks Sherrie. It was a combination of slower drying water based inks (Graphic Chemical has a water based ink with a glycol binder that has a really good open air time) and yes a little misting of the paper which works to help release the ink as it is very sticky.