Block printing supplies: Inks and inking tools
There’s lots of different block printing inks, but make sure that the ones you’re using can be used specifically for fabric. If it says fabric on the label, you’re good. There’s a lot of block printing supplies you can improvise, but this is one where the right ink is really going to make a difference.
Don’t use this paint!
Short rant: You’re going to be really tempted to pick up whatever random fabric paint you have left over from your kid’s last art project when you first start blockprinting.
I’m absolutely guilty here. I’ve even been known to even mix plain acrylic paints with textile medium for block printing. As someone who’s done all the things here, don’t use fabric paint when you block print.
The paint is not the right consistency for blocks and it’ll get into the cracks of your block and clog up your pretty design, making a muddy print and a block that’s near impossible to clean. Instead do this:
Screen printing inks
Screen printing inks are water soluble, and easy to mix for a custom color. They’re a little thinner than inks labeled “block printing inks”, but once you roll them out, they print well. Speedball makes a good basic set of colors (*affiliate) and the jars last for a really long time.
And you can mix up custom colors and keep them for months in small lidded airtight containers.
Brayers + plexiglas
A brayer is a small rubber roller. I have a 4″ Speedball brayer (*affilate) and a Martha Stewart 3″ brayer I picked up at an art thrift store.
The plexiglas is for rolling out the ink before you roll it on your block for a nice even layer of ink. If you can’t find plexiglas, you can use an old picture frame to roll out ink.
So that’s all you need to get started. If it seems like a long list, I’d go with one of the no-carve options that we talked about + a brayer and ink. In another post, I’ll show you how to actually go about carving your own block, so you can get your hands dirty making your own fabric!
Have you tried block printing?
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.
1 thought on “Block printing supplies for DIY fabric”
Hi Elizabeth – Thanks for this great round-up of supplies! I’ve been wondering about printing on fabric and you answered some of my questions. I’ve done some linoleum block printing on paper and I learned a trick from someone who took a printing class to make it easier: Iron your lino! Seriously! Warm it up with a hot iron, using a pressing cloth. Don’t leave the iron in one place, keep it moving or you’ll see the texture of your fabric show up on the surface of the lino. Reheat it as necessary while you’re carving. When you notice it getting a little harder to cut, it’s time to hit it with the iron again. It really does soften up the linoleum. That said, it’s not very deep so you can’t always get the definition you may need for printing on fabric. But if people find that they like the printing process, they shouldn’t be afraid of lino. Just get out your iron! and if you’re serious about printing, consider making or buying a bench hook, which is a handy “frame” for holding your block for you while you carve. It’ll help a lot with any printing block material, actually. (Google “lino bench hook” and you’ll see what I mean. Happy printing, and thanks for the scoop on materials for printing on fabric!