Tuesday, November 1, 2011

dia de los muertos prints

i've been a little obsessed with the mexican holiday dia de los muertos (or day of the dead in english) this year.  not really sure why.  this year, my family decided we would each design our own pumpkin, and i painted mine to go along with my obsession.  what do you think?

it all started when i read this post at the art blog teach kids art.  i'm not a printmaker, but the project seemed so simple and fun, i couldn't resist.  and let me just say that every one of my kids loved it.  here are some of their finished prints!

carly age 11

brandon  age 9

max  age 6

zane  age 6

zachary  age 4

for this project we used scratch-foam.  this box has (12)  9" x 12" sheets in it, and ran me around $6 at dick blick. 

i also used a pencil, a wooden skewer, a rolling pin, and  water-based block printing inks by speedball.  oh yes, and a brayer.  i wasn't smart enough to put that in the picture, but mine looks like this and can be found at any of the craft stores. 

i cut each scratch-foam board in half to make them 4 1/2" x 6".  i also used 9" x 12" drawing paper, cut in half the same way.  on the drawing paper, i drew a basic skull template. (my students had the option to use just the outside line of my template or all of my template, and then they did all the decorations themselves.)

then i put the drawing on top of the scratch-foam and secured it with a little bit of tape at the top and the bottom so it wouldn't slide around.  using a semi-dull pencil, i traced the skull, making sure i pushed hard enough to scratch into the board below it.  then i pulled off the top paper, and used a combination of the pencil and the wooden skewer to carve the lines deeper and add my decorations.

 then on a disposable palette sheet, i put out three colors of ink.  i ended up running out of palette sheets during the course of this project, so i used wax paper.  just make sure you tape down the ends securely if you use wax paper. 

next, i rolled the brayer through the ink, making sure to cover the entire surface evenly.  i changed directions as i was rolling to help that.

once the brayer was inked up nicely, i rolled it over the carved scratch-foam plate.  once the color started to fade, i wiped off the brayer and changed colors.   i kept doing this until the entire surface of the carved plate was covered evenly.  (if you get a glob of ink on your carved plate, just run the brayer over it until it flattens out.)  then i carefully turned the inked up plate over and set it in the middle of a clean sheet of white card stock. i pressed down on it with my hands and then rolled over it a couple of times with my rolling pin.

zac printing his inked up plate

then, starting at the bottom corner, i carefully peeled away the plate from the paper below. voila! 

my example

i set the print aside to dry and rinsed off the brayer and the foam plate with water.  the foam plates can be used over and over if you're careful with them!

each of my students did several different prints with their plates, changing up the color choices and the background paper colors.  carly and i did a white one on black paper that was cool, and a yellow one on black paper that was even cooler!  like i said, my kids had a blast with this project, and we definetly plan to do more printing in the future. 

zachary (age 4)

 on some of the early prints, i taught them how a printmaker signs prints.

max (age 6) signing his print

with most of the prints, though, i tore the extra edges off, and we made a dia de los muertos banner.  here it is hanging in my studio!

now, don't you love dia de los muertos too!



  1. Awesome project - fantastic results.

  2. Those are great, Julie! My daughter did one of those styro projects and I loved it, but I didn't know where to get the stuff. So glad to know now. Thanks!


  3. That is way cool, Julie. Thanks for sharing the "how-to!"

  4. What a fantastic project for these children! I'm seeing a lot of painted pumpkins....sounds like a great idea from next year..yours is gorgeous!

  5. Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your lovely compliment! She IS my little cutie pie! One of the first things it said in the rules of AED was that rules were made to be broken...so while I'll make art every day...I might not be able to blog about it! But I'll try. And thanks again!
    BTW- your pumpkin really is as cute as it gets!

  6. Thanks you guys! I've gotten a lot of good feedback on my tutorials, so I'll keep heading that direction. Thanks for reading!

  7. I think you may be bit crazy but I love your pumpkin. You put mine to shame...which was done at 5:35pm as kids were running to my door. Keep up with the tutorials..they are great. I am going to forward your blog to my best friend who also teaches art to kids. So..have completed my pinterest project (finally) and will post about it today...but could be tomorrow:)


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