When you've got crafty kids eager for something to do, few things compare to an interactive art project that uses recycled items and is simple enough for even the youngest of artists. Printmaking fits this bill and then some. With a certain element of surprise (you never know exactly what each print will look like) and results that are often worthy of framing, printmaking is my family's favorite painting technique. With this simple method, even a novice can create a beautiful piece of art every time.
The materials for printmaking go way beyond the ordinary. Fortunately, they are also easy to come by. At my house, packing materials, weird fabrics, cardboard, and foam mingle haphazardly alongside the less exotic paints and paintbrushes on the art supply shelves.
By using different paints and papers or by combining several of their favorite techniques, my kids can create artwork that is uniquely their own. The possibilities are endless, offering many opportunities for experimentation.
Highlighted here are three of our favorite printing techniques. My kids love them because they are fun to do and gorgeous results are all but guaranteed. I love them because with very little set up, my kids are artfully occupied for hours. Make sure you have plenty of paper on hand!
Following the premise that what goes up must come down, this bouncy technique harnesses the stretchiness of panty hose to create a one-of-a-kind printing tool. Filled with a variety of household items, the distance between artist and paper will create a random effect as kids paint from afar. The resulting prints will vary as greatly as the materials used to fill the panty hose.
You will need:
- Legs cut from old panty hose
- An old cookie sheet
- An old kitchen towel, dampened
- Paints: any kind works; try glitter paints or liquid watercolors for different effects
- Large sheets of paper for printing on, such as butcher paper (avoid newsprint; it's too thin)
- Items for filling panty hose: dry beans, pea gravel, rice, broken spaghetti noodles, jute twine, sand, bits of sponge or foam peanuts. The possibilities are endless; experiment with what you have on hand.
Here's how to make your panty hose prints:
- Cover an 8' x 8' area of floor space with newspaper. This oversized space allows kids the freedom to create without worrying about getting paint in the wrong place. Place the butcher paper in the center of your newspaper-covered floor.
- Fill the toe of the panty hose with 1/2 to 1 cup of the chosen filling. Some items may poke through; this shouldn't interfere with your printing, but if it bothers you, use a double thickness of panty hose.
- Experiment with the elasticity. Your kids should be able to create a yo-yo of sorts, with the filled panty hose bouncing from about their knee level to the floor and back. If you have chosen lightweight items to print with, the panty hose may not be heavy enough. To add weight, pour about 1/2 cup of sand into one corner of a plastic grocery sack and secure with a twist-tie just above the sand. Cut off excess plastic. Drop sand bag into toe of panty hose, making certain that it sits on top of the dry material in the panty hose. This provides the weight necessary to create a sufficiently bouncy printing tool without affecting the pattern of your print.
- Secure the dry materials in place by tying a knot in the panty hose just above the filling.
- Line cookie sheet with the damp kitchen towel. Spread several tablespoons of paint onto the towel-lined cookie sheet. If the paint is too thick, thin it a bit with water. The paint soaked towel will act as a stamp pad and help to control the amount of paint picked up by the printing tool. It takes very little paint to create a nice print. Too much paint will result in splattering; a nice technique, but one better suited to an outdoor art day.
- From a standing position, have your kids bounce the panty hose onto the paint tray and then repeatedly onto their paper.