Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reduction prints from styrofoam sheets, 5th grade

This lesson is an advanced version of the styrofoam printing done in my 4th grade classes, as students print multiple layers and colors after changing the printing surface. 
The original drawing was done on paper after a lesson on proportion, or comparing sizes and shapes. Students chose the subject of self-portraits or shoes and they drew them using proportion techniques, like "your eyes are one eye width apart" or "the opening of the shoe is about one-third the length of the whole shoe." Students found these proportions by measuring with their fingers, so it was not an exact measurement.
Once the drawings were complete, we taped the paper to a styrofoam plate and traced over the paper, creating a sunken line in the foam below. Next, we lifted the paper and drew the lines directly into the foam to ensure the lines were deep enough for printing. Any letters or numbers were drawn backwards, because printing happens in reverse.

Printing day one: each table of 4-5 students share a few inking trays and print a set of three. We try to follow the "messy middle/clean corners" approach, meaning keep the inky parts in the middle of the table, and do the clean paper printing on the corners, to keep ink from getting in places we don't want it. After printing, the foam plates are rinsed and dried and we prepare to "reduce," or take away, some more areas of the plate. We use pencil to add background designs, more details, and fill in a few areas.

The following week, we pass out the now dry printed papers, the printing plates, and a second color of ink. The only difference in today's printing method is the addition of registering the plate, or lining it up to make sure the print is directly over the first print. There are fancy ways to do this, but we simply do a slow line up of the corners, press the plate down, then flip over and rub the paper with flat hands.


  1. This is brilliant! i am going to do this with my grade 5 students for printing later this year. They are so amazingly effective! Thanks for sharing your ideas.


Comments are very appreciated - thanks for stopping by!