Thursday, May 26, 2011


The final image has been mirrored, printed, and is ready for transfer.  It was too large for one 11"x17" page, so I had to tape two pages together.
I remembered to flip it the second time.
This is a down and dirty, old-fashioned image transfer.  You've probably done something like this in 3rd grade art class.  So here we go...

Step 1: Using a graphite stick (or a pencil if you've got a lot of time), and color over the entire back side of the image.

There's no need to go much beyond where your image is, just make sure to get a full, solid cover of graphite as below.
It was a nice day, so I did this on my fire escape.  
Step 2: Flip the print out over and align to the edge of the wood block.  Use tape to hold it in place.  When printing with two blocks, it is very important to make sure the images are transferred into the same position on each separate block, so give yourself some crop marks or a hairline along the outside so you can line it up easily (mine has a very light box in the background).

Step 3: Take a pen or pencil and trace around the outline of the drawing.
You don't even need to press super hard

The lines will transfer onto the woodblock as below.  It's helpful to keep checking to make sure all the lines are being traced.  Just lightly draw over it, right onto the wood.
A little peek

Keep going until the whole thing is traced onto the block.  Next up is carving!  I'll be posting pics as I go.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Separating the colors

Here is the final octopus print broken down into the two different color blocks. The white part is what will be carved away, leaving the colored part to take the ink and make the relief print.  Everything will be cut out except that single color and there will be no overprinting,  meaning that the blocks must align perfectly when cut and printed.

Here's block 1—the octopus:

Here's block 2—the text and embellishments:

Printed together, they will look like this:
You can ignore the xy values, those aren't going to be printed
Of course they'll look much cooler than this because it will be real ink, with all the flecks and smudges and imperfections that make prints so unique and awesome.  In the end, I decided it would be easier to cut out the small letters and graphics instead of carving around them, so the text and suction cups will remain white, or paper colored.  Remember that these still must be mirrored before they can be transferred onto the wood, which I'll do just before I print them.  

If you're wondering about the copy line, I came up with this after reading that octopus have 3 hearts and camouflage themselves from predators on a children's website. Because it doesn't seem that too many adults are searching "octopus facts."  The exact wording came together after several failed attempts to come up with a sea shanty-esque rhyme.

Next step: Print out and transfer to the wood

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Digitalizing the design part 2

Here's the octopus in a more finished form.  For a more organic feel, I varied the thickness of the lines where where the body overlaps.  A few more suction cups (that's a scientific term) on the arms to add more color throughout.  Unfortunately, I fear I may have a lot of difficult work ahead of me, carving out very small lines.  

Up next: Separating the colors, one for each block.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Digitalizing the woodblock design

Digital?! It seems to go against the handmade goods mentality, but I'm not one to make things more difficult for myself.  So for this stage of the project, I've scanned in my sketch, and traced it in Adobe Illustrator.  This is not a necessary step so I'll provide non-digital alternatives. Digitizing allows me to:

  1. Mirror the image automatically.  Drawing in the negative is really hard (remember, you must carve the reverse of your image onto the block for it to print properly), so this is very useful.  If you don't have the programs, just turn your picture over onto a bright window or light box, then trace over onto tracing paper.  
  2. Work with type without it looking like a doodle on my 7th grade math notebook.  If you don't like your fonts, there are plenty of free ones online at sites like  Alternatively you can print the type out, cut it up, and glue it onto the sketch, use stencils, or hand letter.
  3. Play with how to separate the color plates, since I'll need one for each color.  Again, you could trace your drawing several times to make a bunch of "plates" to test color, or even take it to Staples and make a handful of photocopies.  
  4. Preserve your original drawing.  That way you can mess up as many times as you want.  It also tends to get messy or destroyed when transferred to the block, which I'll explain during the transfer process.

I was hesitant to put this up before it was finished, but I always found it useful and interesting to learn about the artists process. There's still plenty of work to be done, fixing the colors, the line overlaps, adding some more suction cups and maybe some bubbles or ornamentation in the background.  Here's the half finished composition:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom's love homemade things

Happy Mother's Day!
Since I have a very wonderful mum who loves when I make her things, I used my new clear stamps to create this fun and simple card.  The ink runs off the page for a full bleed effect, which makes it look more professional (the overprint of the flowers helps with that as well).  Simply put a large piece of scrap paper under the surface you are stamping so that you can go off the edge without inking your tabletop.  Be gentle when you push on your stamps or you'll end up with a smudged "M" like I did.  Don't worry, my Mom still loved it!

Thanks moms!
Remember, moms are the original creatives!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The final octopus

As promised, here is the latest sketch, full size.

Maybe he needs a name
Even as I write this post and stare at the photo, I keep jumping off the computer to make little changes in lines, so the end result may look slightly different.  This project is finally shaping up!  The next step is scan it into the computer, trace over the lines in Adobe Illustrator, and add the type, which I'll go into detail about in the next post.
A close up

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Getting sketchy

Here are some of my sketches for the woodblock print that I've been working on (slowly) for probably the last 2 months.  I've probably done about a dozen or so, thumbnails and actual size, but wasn't totally happy with any of the results. (Click to enlarge)
Little doodles

Actual size.  I like the composition but there's no room for the type.
Then after about an hour of complaining to my very patient boyfriend last night, it dawned on me that maybe I needed a different approach.  What was the best way to do that?  Turn the canvas from portrait to landscape.  I had my mind set on creating this long and narrow vertical print, but when I bought the wood, it was much narrower than I had intended.  The type would have fallen into too many short lines.  Since I was also dead set on doing this octopus and I kept coming back to the idea of drifting, a long horizontal canvas worked better to convey that idea of being swept a long.
The thumbnail
Next step is to do an actual size sketch.  I may make some adjustments so the octopus looks more like he's floating than crawling, or switch the octopus and type.  I hope to post the final sketch in the next few days!