How to Plan a Printmaking Unit

As a private art instructor, I plan my lessons a bit differently than public school teachers.  I don’t have a curriculum that I follow but I am sure to base my lessons on the Elements of Art and Principles of Designs, Art History and Culture, or specific skills or medium.  My goal is giving my students a good base of information and experiences through engaging projects that make them want to come back.

I’m getting ready for a printmaking series.  So I figured since I’m preparing the series (or unit as some might call it), I might as well share how I plan a printmaking unit.  I’m always interested in how others prepare or plan their lessons so figured I’d walk you through my process.

Planning a Printmaking Unit

First I take into consideration my time constraints.  Length of class, number of classes, etc.  For this series, our classes are 1.5 hours, a total of 6 classes with a week between class sessions.

Next I need to set goals.  These are the main ideas I want my students to come away with (for a school teacher these might be objectives based on state standards).  Maybe its process, vocabulary, specific skills, etc.  For this series I want students to come away with a basic knowledge of what printmaking is, the printmaking process, tools used, and printmaking vocabulary.  I’ll include the Elements and Principles and some art history into the mix as well.

Then I research like crazy.  Throughout my research I may come across things I want to add into my goals.  So I may do a back and forth dance here.  Research my goals… find new goals… research those goals… find more goals… reprioritize top goals… research those goals…  And on and on it goes until I run out of time I’m satisfied with my overall plan.

My personal favorite research tool is Pinterest.  I have a growing number of boards.  Most recently my printmaking board has been growing.  I love Pinterest because of its strong visual search element.  I mean who in the visual arts wouldn’t love such a fantastic visual search tool.  And the rabbit trails you can go off on… going further and further into the suggestions.  Lots of fun!

Next I set out a basic plan for the projects that best cover the goals in the most concentrated amount of time.  I don’t do too many exercises or practice days as I want my students to go home with a piece most days.  At most a project may stretch to 2 days.  But in order for me to justify 2 classes on the same project it must be extremely vital for understanding the goals I’ve set.

I write down a basic outline of how my lessons will go or maybe key points I don’t want to forget or specific facts I want to be sure I share correctly.  I really don’t write down procedures as I did when writing “official” lesson plans while student teaching or teaching in public or private schools.  Just one of the perks of teaching privately.

Here’s an example of what I might write down for our overall goals and first project.

Printmaking Unit Goals:

Basic Process (creating image, inking, transferring)

Importance of clear image (through ink, paper placement, transferring)

How to design for a print (reversed image, importance of negative space and line)

Multiple prints (including specifics through reduction)


Basic Foam Print- 1 class

  • goals:  introduce overall process; include unique vocabulary; discuss image reversal; practice getting a clear image
  • supplies:  card stock or cardboard, thin craft foam, glue, scissors, water based ink, brayer, inking tray or other non porous surface, thick paper, table cover, aprons, hand wipes
  • process:  brief overview of project, discuss images and material (foam), cut, glue, clearly go over/demonstrate inking process (including vocab and “how to”), make multiple prints, name and number of print.

That’s it!  Not fancy at all.  Its usually scribbled on a handy piece of paper (maybe even the back of a scrap).  This unit particularly I made a sort of chart type thing with the projects # at top, then section to list supplies, since there are a lot of supplies I need and I don’t want to forget anything.  I travel to teach one of my classes (Not “Art on a Cart” more “Art out of a Bag” so I REALLY don’t want to forget anything.

Project 1- Basic Foam Print

I ran across a printmaking process Jeanette at Craft Whack used.

Foam pieces printmaking art project

Its a very quick, productive way to introduce printmaking to my group.  The foam will cut easily.  So the students will be able to get a raised image down super quick.  Then in just one day they will really get to experience, hands on, the process of inking an image and transferring it to multiple pages.  So in one day they will have experienced the complete printmaking process.  I like it!

Project 2-

Inspiration comes from this photo but I went searching for the “how-to” some where else.


A small stamp is a good project to understand the removing of the negative space aspect of block printing and a first chance to use the linoleum cutters.  I can stress safety with an easier smaller material.  It will also drive home the point of being carful to line up your block.  I might throw in some radial symmetry, pattern, or maybe some history or culture like Islamic tiles.  I’m excited about this project as well!

Project 3- Styrofoam Multiple Colors

I love this project from Mr. Stoller over at Tomas Elementary Art- The Blog.

I really like this project, not just because its awesome, but students learn the process of doing multiple prints (incase one is messed up) and the importance of lining up paper perfectly when using multiple colors.  Even though I love this project, it moves away from the block printing techniques that I’m focusing on in this unit.  So this project may get moved to another printmaking series in the future.  I’m sad about this but I do only have 6 classes so I’ve decided to narrow my focus to block printing.  But next year… It’s in!

Project 4- Linoleum Print

Inspiration from

The grand finale!  The project that we’ve been working up to.  A detailed full linoleum print.  This post shows a great step by step of what I’ll go for.  It works with two different blocks, a good process to learn.  However I really want to go over reduction printing so I may make this final project into a reduction and do a smaller 2 piece print if we end up having time.

All these projects are preliminary until I actually do them with my groups.  I will switch them so that they fit my students, available supplies, and teaching style.

Order Supplies:

Whew!  Though I started this post awhile ago I actually just finished ordering my supplies.

I am so excited to invest in some printmaking supplies!

I love being able to offer a wider range of materials and topics.  And the possibilities for printmaking in the future?!?  Oh the ideas just fill my head to bursting!

My situation is soooo different from a public school teacher who may order all their supplies once or twice a year and have A LOT more students.  But here is how I ordered supplies.

First I sat down an took a guess at how many students I’ll have, both max per class and total over all my classes.  Then, looking at my projects, I went through them one by one listing supplies used for all classes (brayers) and for just one project (battleship gray linoleum).  Keeping in mind items used repeatedly (linoleum cutters) and ones consumed or needed per student (pink stamping material).  I did this in a sort of a column type set up.  Project at the top, brayers under each, individual supplies specific to project column.  I tallied it up and compared prices.  I just looked between Amazon and  I’ll be honest and say that this time everything was cheaper through Blick.

And then I prayed for students to fill my seats and pressed “complete order.”  I admit this part was a bit scary because I’m not granteed students (sign ups aren’t back yet) and printmaking supplies are a pretty big investment.

But I’m investing in my business and in my students and that part was gratifying!

To recap How I Plan a Printmaking Unit

Plan a printmaking unit

Wow!  It’s tough to accurately put into words how I go through my process.  I’m sure I left gaps and wasn’t super clear in some areas.  Teachers do a lot of planning in their heads and don’t even realize it.  But if you made it this far, I hope it was an interesting read and of course if you have any questions (though I’m not a printmaking expert) ask away!  I’ll answer them to the best of my abilities.

So I’m curious… How do you plan a unit?

Welcome to my adventures in teaching Art outside of the public school system. I’ll share our projects and challenge myself and you to continually improve. So glad you stopped by!

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