Mother Earth Living

DIY Block Printing: Homemade Wedding Invitations

To save money and impress your guests, try making homemade wedding invitations. Linoleum block printing is a perfect project for novice crafters.
By Khris Cochran
February 2012 Web
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Not only is taking a hands-on approach to nuptials a great way to save money, but it allows brides-to-be everywhere to showcase their own personal style. Organized by wedding theme, including Sand & Sea and A Touch of Country, “The DIY Bride: An Affair to Remember” includes themed projects for save-the-dates, invitations, favors and more. Click on the link above the image to read an excerpt from “The DIY Bride: An Affair to Remember” on making homemade wedding invitations using block printing.
Photo Courtesy The Taunton Press
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While store-bought wedding invitations can be lovely, they lack a personal touch and sometimes cost a pretty penny. Give your guests a special surprise by making your own homemade wedding invitations. This simple tutorial for linoleum block printing from The DIY Bride: An Affair to Remember (Taunton Press, 2012) will get you started. Excerpted from Chapter 7, “Into the Garden.” 

I’ve become something of a print nerd. Since taking a class on screen printing, I’ve been hooked on all forms of putting ink to paper. One of my new favorites, which is akin to the first wedding craft I ever did (rubber stamping), is linoleum block printing. It’s marvelous as a gateway to other print techniques and a perfect way for beginner (and experienced) crafters to create killer invitations.

If you’re a perfectionist who must have clean, perfect lines and precise placement or color, this may not be the technique for you. Linoleum, or block, printing is messy. It’s often imperfect. It takes some time and trial and error to get right. But, for me and perhaps for you, this is part of what makes it so great.

With so much mechanized and homogenized perfection, it’s so refreshing to give and receive items that look and feel handcrafted, like real, living human beings created them with their own hands. That’s special and downright precious.

Block printing is exactly like it sounds: A block is used to put ink to paper. The block is a linoleum-faced piece of cork that’s carved with a design. A rubber brayer is used to apply ink to the design, and then the block is put to paper. Ready to give it a go? Let’s start! 

Crafty Commitment
3 hours for 25 invitations 

Solo A-Go-Go
Because you’ll have extended drying times with the ink, allow yourself a full weekend or a few weeknight evenings to complete your invitations. Turn on the radio or invite your sweetie to read from your favorite book while you work.

Supplies

• Computer with Microsoft Word
• Printer
• Watercolor paper, cut to 5 in. by 7 in.
• Pencil
• Linoleum block, 4 in. by 6 in., available from art stores
• Linoleum block cutter set
• Block printing ink
• Ink plate or a piece of glass
• Brayer
• Baren 

Directions

1. Start by printing a 5-in. by 7-in. invitation. Open Microsoft Word and create a new document. From the Page Setup menu, select “Custom Page Size” from the “Settings” options. Set the custom page size for “5” wide by “7” high. Click “OK.”

2. Set the margin spacing to “0.50” for the left and right margins. For the top and bottom, set the margin spacing to “0.50.” This will give you some blank space to apply your block print design. Click on the page and insert your invitation text. Save and print your invite on a 5-in. by 7-in. piece of watercolor paper.

3.  Your next task is to come up with your design. You can create almost any style with linoleum printing, but bold designs with clear detail (nothing intricate) are the best bets, especially for beginners. Text is fine, as long as it’s bold and you aren’t looking for laser precision. It’s important to note that your design will need to be in mirror image (backwards) of how you’ll want it to print.

4. With a pencil, draw your design directly on the surface of the linoleum block. To help you determine where not to cut, color in the design with the pencil. With the linoleum cutters, remove all of the non-colored area around the design.

5. To cut away the linoleum, use firm, even strokes with the lino cutters. You needn’t cut too deep. Let me warn you: This is hard work! Your hands and fingers will get fatigued. Take frequent breaks. And speaking of those fingers, lino cutters are wickedly sharp! Be extra-careful when you’re cutting away the linoleum. Always carve away from you (see photo in Image Gallery).

6. When you’re satisfied with your design, it’s time to take it for a test print. Squeeze a small amount of ink onto the piece of glass or ink plate (see photo in Image Gallery). With your brayer, roll the ink out into a smooth, thin layer. Carefully roll the inked brayer onto the surface of your block. All of the raised areas will accept the ink. Depending on how deeply you carved your design, you may end up with little carving lines showing in the background when you print. If it’s not to your liking, go back and carve away those areas.

7. Place your printed invitation on top of the inked block. Using the baren, rub the paper with even pressure (see drawing in the Image Gallery). This “pulls” the ink from the block onto the paper. Carefully peel the paper from the block and allow it to dry.

Tips & Hints

• The best papers for linoleum prints are rag-based water-color papers. They take ink very well and look beautiful.

• Linoleum inks come in limited colors, but they can be mixed to create custom shades.

• Have a backup block on hand in case you make a mistake (which is really easy to do, even for experienced printers).

• Linoleum print ink is smelly. Work in a well-ventilated area whenever you can.

• The ink can get everywhere. Make sure you protect your work surface and clothing.

Price Breakdown:

Your Cost
Watercolor paper: $11.00
Block: $3.00
Linoleum cutter set: $12.00
Ink: $6.00
Brayer: $8.00
Baren: $5.00

TOTAL: $45.00

For 25 invitations or $1.80 each

Store Cost
Custom block print invitations can cost $4.00 per invitation from custom stationers.

Fit Your Style

Having a country wedding? How about using a horseshoe motif for good luck?

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The DIY Bride: An Affair to Remember, published by Taunton Press, 2012. 


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