Top 4 FAQs About Block Printing With Wood Block Stamps (Wood Print Blocks)
When using wood block stamps (also known as wood print blocks), people are sometimes afraid to put their stamps to the test. The stamps themselves are so beautiful that crafters don't want to risk "ruining" them by stamping a new set of curtains. This FAQ should help assuage typical wood block stamp-related fears.
1. Will I ruin my antique wood block stamps by using them to print fabric?
Absolutely not. Your stamps will be permanently stained the same color as your dye, but this doesn't hurt them one bit. They're made to be used — wood block stamps last for an estimated 1500 meters of fabric! The one exception is if your stamp is very, very old. Take a close look at the design — if it's worn down so much that it has almost disappeared, then it likely won't make a good print. These stamps are relatively easy to spot, and there are very few even on the market.
2. I'm worried about damaging my stamps by printing with them.
OK, this isn't really a question, but it is an oft-used refrain by wood block stampers. The truth of the matter is that Indian hand block printers are not (by any stretch of the imagination) gentle with their stamps. They thwack them with the back of their hand and show no sign of coddling the beautiful designs. Unless you hack away at the stamps with a steak knife, you don't have to worry about ruining them while printing paper or textiles. They were built for hard use — it's their special purpose.
Still not convinced? Check out this clip of a master hand block printer shot in Jaipur, India.
3. Should I use fabric paint or fabric dye?
In India, printers use dye that soaks into the fabric without leaving the "ridges" you sometimes see with screen printing. Dye is generally better because the colors stay richer longer and hold up better during repeated washings. Do NOT use fabric paint with stamps that have complicated designs. It seeps into the little nooks and crannies and completely distorts the image.
If your stamp has a very simple design (such as the bluebird on the right) you can get away with using paint if you dilute it with water. A better idea is to simply mix your own dyes — you have more control over color options and can be sure it will be compatible with all your stamps. Rit liquid dye is readily available at craft stores and is relatively inexpensive. See below for some options from Amazon.com.
To clean both paint and dye off the stamps, rinse them in cold water until the water runs clear.
4. Can you use the stamps to print on paper?
Of course! Crafters use wood block stamps to print on everything from wedding invitations to homemade book covers. Pick up a regular stationery ink pad at your local craft store and go to town. (Tip: if the pad isn't particularly "juicy" you may have to press really hard to get a good print — experiment with rocking the stamp back and forth to get ink on all sides.)
For further information on wood block printing, check out the following:
- How to: Block Print Fabric With a Wood Block Stamp (Wood Print Block) Like a Traditional Indian Art
Learn to block print on fabric using traditional wooden printing blocks hand carved in India. This tutorial covers creating your own "ink" pad, stamp placement, and finishing it up. by A Trade For A Trade in Crafts and How-To Guides/Manuals
- Creating, cutting and printing your own woodblock
Here's the basic process for buying tools, cutting a woodblock, inking and then printing with it.
- Indian Block Printing: Fifty Centuries of Colorful Beauty
Five thousand years after the oldest surviving scraps of block printed fabric were created in the Indus Valley, the art is still practiced with colorfully dramatic results. It is a painstaking and laborious process.
- Elemental: Block Printing Tutorial: Part I
I decided to put together a block printing how-to, after getting lots of comments and emails from people expressing interest. It's a cinch to get into, as it requires only a bit of equipment to begin with.
- The Art Of Indian Hand Block Print Of Fabrics
India is a country unmatched in its profusion of textile arts. The process of hand block printing is painstakingly arduous
Now, get out there and start printing!