Relief Prints- Hand Prints

Relief is a great introduction to printmaking because it is so direct in process and all ages seem to enjoy the printing or rolling part. This project begins with drawing and ends in
a separate print or prints which shows how printmaking is connected to drawing and how it can be used to create multiples of the original drawing. Multiple prints can be created exploring different color inks and papers.

Hand Prints: A simple idea to bring all ages into the printmaking process is to begin with the concept of the “trace”. Hands are personal and unique and within or around their traced hands students can include drawings or patterns that also say something unique and personal to them. For example they might draw their favorite animal, their family or
create a pattern radiating inside or outside their hand. Note: emphasize this process works
best for drawing and not writing- text as well as any imagery will be reversed in the final print. Encourage students who want to add text to do so on their paper after creating their print and you can incorporate hand drawn or stamped text that way.


  • pen for drawing (easier to see pen then pencil when drawing on scratch foam)
  • scratch foam
  • wet tempera or printmaking inks (tempera works well because it dries fast after printing      and usually the printing is quick in this process including one color or a two color “rainbow roll”)
  • Printing paper: can be construction, cardstock or specialty printmaking paper (white and/or various color options)
  • brayer (rollers) for applying paint/ink
  • Baren or wooden spoon/knob for printing (a clean brayer can work in a pinch, too)
  • large (8 x 10”) plexi-glass for placing ink/paint on for printing
  • plenty of paper towels


  1. Have student begin with tracing around their hand with pen- some help may be needed depending upon age. Encourage them to consider adding a drawing, pattern or favorite shape to their hand. They can sketch ideas out on a separate paper if needed.
  2. Ask what color or colors they are interested in using with their drawing. The color of the ink and the color of the paper can be a really exciting part of the image. The areas they drew on the scratch foam will be the color of the paper they choose. The top or highest areas of scratch foam not drawn on will be covered with the ink/paint color.
  3. Place paper towel under scratch foam when ready to print. Put color on plexi-glass surface and show how to roll brayer in ink and cover fully. Take brayer and apply to surface of scratch foam until fully inked.
  4. Position scratch foam carefully wherever desired on the paper chosen for the print. Lay a piece of paper towel on top of the back of the scratch foam to keep baren or wooden spoon/knob clean. Using firm pressure, move baren all over the back of the image area of the scratch foam. When satisfied remove paper towel and scratch foam to reveal the finished print on paper.
  5. Be sure to clean scratch foam and roller if changing between colors or mixing will occurs- although sometimes mixing this way can be a fun process too.

Additional Options

  • The finished print might inspire new color combinations to print multiple variations.
  • The finished print can be decorated along the border areas using markers or stamps toinclude the artists’ name, a story, or a continuation of the drawing within the print.
  • Folding the paper ahead of time can create different shaped “card” prints.
  • The scratch foam can be interesting alone especially with the ink from printing left on.
  • Fabric or other surfaces can be used experimentally and the print can be used as a pattern or background for another project or creating wallpaper, wrapping paper, journals, etc.


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