How to Make Printmaking Easy for Even Your Most Rambunctious Class

Mr. Stoller’s printmaking presentation at the AOE Online Conference this summer inspired me to pursue printmaking with my younger grades…even my rowdy classes.
After some trial and error, I developed a printmaking process that is efficient and engaging. It keeps students busy printing without a lot of wait time, which really cuts down on behavior issues. Best of all, it really is easy enough for my second graders and also works well with my most rambunctious older students.

I’d love to share this successful process with you today!


The Set Up

Setting up takes a little time, but like most prep work, it is SO worth it.

I set up four printing stations, one for each of my table groups. Each station is set up nearby the table group that will be using it.

Each station has clear plates, brayers and ink, which I set up before the class starts printing. (Side Note: There’s no shame in having students work on another task or free draw while you set up.)

Students then set up their own work stations at their seats. Each student’s station contains the following items:

  • His or her foam printing block
  • Papers for printing with his or her name written on the back
  • Background paper for carrying prints to and from the printing station
  • Placemat for placing wet prints to dry


The Demonstration

I recently talked about the importance of detailed, verbalized, and modeled instructions, so you might guess that I demonstrate this entire process. It’s the key to things running smoothly! I am very explicit when explaining what the students will do and demonstrate exactly what I expect. I stop and repeat myself any time a student is not paying attention.

The Process

printmaking easy
As I said, this process has worked for my youngest and most boisterous students. If you’d like to try it in your room, follow the steps outlined below!

  1. Students take their carved foam blocks on top of the background sheets to their designated printing stations.
  2. One at a time, students ink their foam printing blocks. Students waiting to ink form a line until a spot is open. The line goes relatively quickly.
  3. Students then carry their inked foam back to their table spots, where they complete their prints using the papers with their names already on them.
  4. Once individual prints are complete, students lay them on their placemats to dry.
  5. Students then get wet paper towels and dry paper towels to wash and dry off the foam pieces (Note: Here I demonstrate squeezing out a paper towel before leaving the sink area.)
  6. Once the foam is dry, students get back in line and repeat the steps until the desired number of prints is completed.
  7. Once done, students carry their entire placemats including their prints, foam pieces, and background papers to the drying rack.

Running printmaking this way in my room has made things go much more smoothly and has all but eliminated behavior problems. Students are engaged, as they always have a job to be doing. It’s fun to channel the excitement that printmaking brings in a manageable way!

How do you make printmaking work in your classroom? What have you found to be the most efficient setup?

What has worked for your most rambunctious classes?


Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek

Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.


  • Dee Matt

    I teach middle school and have a multi layer printing making process that includes a handout with steps they do and get signed off on as they go to make sure they are on the right track and go to the right stations. My hardest, and yet to find a good solution for, is how to get their multi layers to line up perfectly. I know there MUST be a good way for middle schoolers to do this but I cannot figure it out for some reason – ekkk! Here is a post of the larger lesson I do with 8th graders at the end of the year

    • Alecia Eggers

      Love the idea of a handout for older students Dee! I’m anxious to hear if someone has a good “lining up” technique too!

      • Dee Matt

        Here is the link (Google Doc PDF) to my handout if anyone wants it or has suggestions to make it better:

        • Charmaine86

          Thank you for sharing your handout. I do reduction prints with my students at several different grade levels, so by the time they are in eighth grade, they think they know what to do and don’t need instructions. Some do, but most don’t, and a check list is a great idea for making sure everyone is on track and successful.

        • Denise

          Thanks SO much for this handout….I haven’t seen anything so thorough. ;) many thanks!

    • D. Schlawin

      We have made registration plates out of leftover cardboard that work quite nicely. Cut strips of cardboard about an inch wide. Tape them around your printing plate with masking tape onto another piece of cardboard. Tape a piece of paper on the side so it can flip onto the printing plate (the tape is a hinge).
      To use: ink your plate, put it into the “registration plate,” flip the paper onto the plate and rub to transfer the ink. Peel the paper back and flip back to its original position. Remove the plate, clean and re-ink. The paper should print in the proper position because it is taped in place.
      (These are student examples and they are not very good looking but they work great!)

  • K Hyman

    This exactly describes how I manage printmaking on the Elementary level. It works so well that when my principal showed up for an unannounced observation during print making, I still received high marks for instructional communication and management!!!

  • Zach Stoller

    Whoa! I know Mr. Stoller. He’s me! I’m glad my presentation was helpful to somebody. I set up my ink stations in a very similar manner. I’m happy to see you getting back into printmaking.

  • Toby

    To limit the amount of movement in the classroom, ( as I have folks that shouldn’t be by other folks) they have their printing station at each table. Taking turns and very similar with your printing instructions. I have drying racks in various parts of the classroom to be “closest” to them as they have all their names written on the papers before they start. Then…Brayers and trays in the sink and roll up the work paper, wash hands and any spots that may have gotten on the table. If you finish early get an artist/art book from one of our book bins and “read to self” quiet time.
    Works great!

  • Joyce Dorian

    Love this! My print process is very similar, but from each time student has inked they print a first and a ghost print or second print from the inking. This helps use up much of the ink, making clean up easier, the second prints are often nicer and is great for critique purposes.

  • Val Tonn

    Definitely find the same set up in my K-5 classroom to be very helpful as well- Although I eliminate them cleaning and just take the task on of quickly rinsing them at some point throughout the day… or depending on the project we just make it be the part of the process and we don’t keep the foam— Thanks for the post!

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  • Suzanne Fox

    I have a few questions. What do you use for the background sheets? When they get to the inking station, do they leave their foam plate on the background sheet as they ink? Do they carry the background sheet with their inked plate on it back to their table to print? Is it thrown away at that point since it probably has ink on from where they inked all the way to the edges of the plate?

    If we are only using one color of ink to print with, do the plates have to be washed and dried in between inkings?

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hey Suzanne!

      For background sheets, I used manilla paper. I tend to have students reuse these for more printmaking projects or to separate papers for chalk artwork. When they get covered with ink, they go in our “multi-colored” scrap bin to use :).

      Yes, the background sheet acts as a vehicle to carry their foam plate back and forth. It is left underneath the foam while they ink.

      I actually don’t know! You’ll have to experiment with the cleaning in between. I would say one benefit of wiping between would be that you would absolutely know how well the foam plate got covered.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for the questions! :)

      • Suzanne Fox

        Thanks Alecia. I did a dry run today with your suggestions and I feel more confident with the whole process now. Hopefully it will carry over with instructing my students.

        One thing I have used before with my students is a “Printmaking Placemat, an idea I saw years ago in an Arts & Activities magazine. This placemat stays at the printing station with their labeled papers. It is a 12″ x 18″ sheet of colored construction paper. Centered on this sheet is a 9″ x 12” white paper. Centered on the white paper is a green construction paper rectangle that matches the size of our foam printing plates. I used green paper for this because I have to use the green breakfast foam trays from our cafeteria for our printing projects ( my budget cannot afford buying the foam). This “Printing Placemat” is laminated for easy wipe off and helps it last. After students have inked their plates, they come back to the Printing Placemat and place their plate inked side up on the green paper, lining it up with the green shape. Then they lay their 9″ x 12″ paper to be printed on the white shape, again lining it up with the white shape. It seems to help the students understand the printing process better and helps with straighter alignment. The placemats are easy to wipe off and store for future use.

        Thanks again for your excellent article!

        • Alecia Eggers

          Omg Suzanne, I LOVE the idea of the laminated mats! I’m so happy this process is working for you! :) send pics of your prints if you think of it!

        • Suzanne Fox

          Here is photo of the printing placemat and two cityscape prints.