Thursday, September 13, 2012

Styrofoam Tray Printing

My preschool-aged daughter and I have recently started experimenting with foam tray printing.  Have you tried it?  If you haven't tried this fun, easy, and inexpensive art form, I urge you to give it a try!  It's a great "kid art" project that has "grown-up" card-making, gift-giving, and home decor applications as well.  Plus, even in our high tech age, there's something pretty darned cool and magical about creating your own little DIY printing press.

I first read about foam tray printing on the Chocolate Muffin Tree--a great resource for anyone who likes to make art with young kids.

Foam Trays--We used veggie trays from store bought tomatoes, but styrofoam take-out boxes would work as well.
Blank Paper
Pencils--You will need one dull pencil and one sharp one
Acrylic Craft Paint

1. Cut the edges off of your foam tray so that you have a flat piece of foam on which to work.  This picture is an overly-dramatic, crime-scene-like illustration of this step!
2. Draw your image on a piece of blank white paper. If you incorporate any words or symbols, remember that your end product print will be reversed.

3. Place your drawing on top of the foam, and use a dull pencil (or similar object) to trace your design, pressing into the foam to create an indentation as you draw.

4. Remove your drawing paper from the foam.

5. Using long paintbrush strokes, brush paint onto your foam.  You may need to experiment to find the optimal amount of paint to use.

6. Gently place your foam, paint side down, on your paper, and use your palm and fingers to press all over the surface of the foam.  You can also use a rolling pin or something similar.

7. Carefully lift your foam off of the paper and admire your design!

Once you master the basic technique, the sky is the limit!

Here are some of our prints.  My daughter created this design by drawing with the dull pencil directly on the foam to create the template.  She absolutely loves to draw "heart butterflies".  Most of her butterflies have long, flowing antennae, but she found it harder to draw on foam than on paper.  We made these printed greeting cards for her friends.  Each print is unique.  This process is not about perfection.

I applied the same heart image to some dish towels.  You can buy special additives to make acrylic paint permanent on fabric, but in my experience,  --and when I say "experience", I'm referring to a ridiculously-geeky, hand-painted Wonder Woman Halloween costume that I made in my early twenties--acrylic paint never washes out of fabric.  Ever.

Foam printing would work on a t-shirt as well (place cardboard inside the shirt so the paint won't bleed through to the back).  You can also use this method on fabric to make unique throw pillows.

When I created the owl design below,  I was aiming for a cute, baby nursery owl,  but I ended up with this kind of stern, eerie Halloweeny guy.  This template with black paint on orange paper would make a fun DIY Halloween greeting card. The black one on white paper pictured below could look cute framed in a Halloween display with other black and orange items.  Note how the image is reversed on the foam.

A friend is decorating her baby boy's nursery around a frog nightlight.  I had her in mind when I played with this design, which is inspired by a nightlight that I found via Google.  Note how different paint colors and paint application styles change the result.  This image is not very crisp due to a crease in the foam (see foam template lower L).

I love learning a new technique like this one, because it opens up so many fun new possibilities--from birthday cards to home decor items.

As an added bonus, it's a great way to repurpose styrofoam, which many municipalities will not--or cannot--recycle.  Once you have the foam templates, you can reuse them indefinitely to create more art!


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