Have You Ever Done Printmaking Like THIS?

Printmaking can be intimidating to art teachers. There is so much terminology and so many different processes; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This is particularly true if you’ve never taken a specific printmaking course! If you’re an art education generalist, it can be stressful to introduce your students to unfamiliar media.

But, it’s never too late to learn new techniques!

This is exactly the sentiment two students in a recent section of Studio: Printmaking decided to run with. During an assignment titled, “Alternative Printing Techniques,” students, Heidi Kniseley and Fiona Walker, pursued two different, yet equally interesting, avenues.

The assignment asks students to explore a variety of ways to engage students in printmaking in ways they may not have considered previously. Like many of the open-ended assignments in AOE courses, this assignment leaves room to explore your personal interests and passions. Whether you’re familiar with a medium or not, there’s always the opportunity to explore something new!

Heidi’s Take

Heidi HeadshotCalifornia middle school art teacher, Heidi Kniseley, decided she wanted to explore the Japanese art of Gyotaku. Not only did she use a real fish; she also scored a squid to ink and print! Heidi, went on to complete the process with her 7th grade students.

When others in the class asked about her experience, Heidi had this insight to share. “The fishy smell wasn’t too bad. I did open the doors and try to keep fresh air flowing in. I purchased the uncleaned fish pretty cheaply at an Asian market near me, spending about $15 to buy enough for nine stations.

My middle school students thought it was pretty cool to use real fish, which created buy-in and excitement for the project. The students had a blast with this assignment and, with a little preparation, the cleanup wasn’t bad. I would highly recommend real fish!”

If you’re curious, Heidi was kind enough to share her process board so you can see exactly what she did.

Heidi's process board

Download Heidi’s Process Board

Fiona’s Take

Fiona's HeadshotFiona Walker, a high school art teacher in Milpitas, CA, went about the Alternative Printing Techniques assignment a bit differently, but her subject matter was uncannily related! Fiona combined monoprinting and a tape transfer to create this octopus on a textured background.

In talking about the assignment, Fiona wrote, “This lesson wins. It was my absolute favorite so far! I plan to incorporate both the transfers and the table top monoprints into my curriculum.”

Plus, as she was working on the assignment, she stumbled upon a brand new idea to bring to her students. She explained it this way, “I want to have And-Now-For-Something-Completely-Different Days. My classroom is flipped, so the kids work at their own pace. I’ve found that this can be a little isolating. So, what if, on random days, I surprise them with a crazy, random technique we can all do together in one day? I think it would keep them on their toes, and break up the monotony a bit!”

You can check out Fiona’s final monoprint with tape transfer overlay below.

Fiona's print

And, just like Heidi, Fiona was gracious enough to share her process board (you can see all the pages when you download) if you’d like to dig deeper!

Fiona's process board

Download Fiona’s Process Board

As you can see, when you enroll in an AOE Studio Course, you get the chance not only to explore new techniques and create personally meaningful artwork but also to design lesson plans and instructional tools specific to your students and classroom.

Both Fiona and Heidi were able to pinpoint a unique printmaking idea and then translate that idea into an engaging lesson. If you’re looking for an opportunity to freshen up your printmaking curriculum and explore some art-making of your own, taking Studio: Printmaking is a choice you won’t regret!

What non-traditional printmaking methods do you teach your students?  

What printmaking techniques do you find engage students the most?

Shannon Lauffer

Shannon is the Admissions and Academic Advisor for The Art of Education. She has experience teaching at all levels and loves teaching art with a focus on student choice.


  • Kelly Phillips

    Wow, Shannon! Amazing work. Did Fiona just use packing tape and regular printer paper and ink?

  • Catherine Polcaro

    I am also interested in the supplies used to make the transfer. Also, is there an alternative (easier) way to do so with 3rd – 5th graders? Thank you. Great post!

    • Abby Schukei

      Hi Catherine, If you download Fiona’s process board you will see the steps to the transfer process. Make sure you print out the image on a laser printer and not an inkjet printer. All you need to complete this process is packing tape and a tub of water! I’ve personally done this process with elementary students and they are capable of the process. You might just need to print out a couple of extra images for them in case they have difficulty laying the packing tape out smoothly.

  • Kimberly Moe

    After the paper is removed from the print (and left on the sticky part of the tape?) how do you transfer the image from the tape to the colored paper? Thanks!

    • Susan Wheelersburg

      The stickiness of the tape remains even after it is soaked in water. It will easily stick to the printed background paper.

  • Heather Morgan

    I am a new teacher, and I have zero experience with printmaking. It’s very intimidating. Thanks for all your informative, encouraging articles. I think I’m going to sign up for a printmaking class at a local university to get some direct, hands-on experience.

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