SPaRK – The Printmaking Ideas Book

Helen Yip is a teacher of visual arts and photography, video and digital imaging at Asquith Girls High School. In this Shared Practice and Research Kit (SPaRK) she shares an inspiring resource on printmaking as a mode of expression for students of visual arts in Stages 4-6.

Book cover of The Printmaking Ideas Book
Image: The Printmaking Ideas Book by Frances Stanfield and Lucy McGeown.

Resource overview

Versatile, experimental and transformative, printmaking is a powerful medium that offers infinite material and conceptual possibilities. Presented in an accessible handbook format, ‘The Printmaking Ideas Book’ outlines a variety of approaches to printmaking employing traditional to contemporary techniques. Punchy artwork visuals accompany each technique, and are balanced with concise summaries of artists’ practice, historical insights and practical artmaking advice. Students and teachers can flick through and find immediate inspiration across a range of subject matter and innovative approaches for interpreting and translating ideas, materials and imagery. Offering an exploratory platform for building and extending students’ artmaking, this book promotes an interdisciplinary approach to practice, highlighting dynamic connections between 2D, 3D and 4D forms, including printmaking, drawing, collage, painting, textiles, sculpture, photography, digital imaging, animation and film. A thumbnail index of featured artworks with artists’ names and websites provides a quick reference guide for further research and inquiry. From embossing, laser-cut lino printing, collagraphy and alternative methods for printing without a press, to working with time, found objects, rain, urban architecture and experimental surfaces, the possibilities revealed by this handbook provide a bold blueprint for creative thinking and positive risk-taking – within and beyond the classroom.

Educational significance

Offering authentic approaches, insights and experiments for developing students’ creative and critical thinking, this resource promotes positive risk-taking, material experimentation and conscious conceptual decisions through the artmaking process. It highlights the significance of printmaking as a rich platform and means of interpreting and translating ideas, materials and imagery, and its role in framing innovative interpretations of the world. The book provides a useful starting point and scaffold for enriching students’ understanding of how they may represent their intentions and an informed point of view via their artmaking as well as their critical and historical accounts.

Strikingly, this book explores how chance and control underlie the practice of artists, prompting students to consider the nature of artmaking as a balance and interplay between intuitive, spontaneous acts and intentional, informed decision-making. Investigations of the diverse concepts, materials and techniques outlined in this book will promote students’ engagement with the physicality, immediacy and expansive possibilities of printmaking as an evolving practice.

Syllabus links

Additional syllabus links

Suggestions for using this text

This resource serves as an accessible handbook and quick reference guide for generating a range of artmaking, critical, historical and investigations. Both students and teachers will find it useful for informing the development and extension of their own material and conceptual practice, given its concise design and highly experimental, hands-on approach to artmaking, including simple yet eloquent techniques for printing without a press or specialised equipment. Particular techniques, materials and subject matter may be selected to form the focus of individual lessons or extended, project-based tasks, or a combination may be explored.

As the book is structured in terms of alternating techniques, materials and sources of inspiration, teachers may choose to workshop specific content and approaches to printmaking, to inform an artmaking task or the development of a body of work. Techniques such as monotype, etching, screenprinting, linocut, stamping, embossing, digital printing, collagraphy, risography, laser-cut lino printing, kitchen litho and ebru may form the basis of practical experiments and lead to the generation, extension, translation or resolution of ideas. Experimenting with innovative layers, surfaces, contexts, sites, forms of mark-making, transformations over time, representational approaches and modes of presentation could also provide opportunities for students to take positive risks in their learning and extend their practice as artists.

Significantly, the book highlights the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary artmaking practice, providing direct strategies for teachers and students to reveal and exploit 2D, 3D and 4D interconnections between printmaking, drawing, collage, painting, textiles, sculpture, photography, digital imaging, animation and film. Students could inform their own practical experimentation through further research and critical analysis of the practice and work of artists referenced alongside each technique or approach. Brief summaries of historical developments, artists’ conceptual aims and material choices provide additional contextual cues for critical, historical and practical inquiries.

Teaching activities

  • Analyse the impact of printmaking on the practice of artists, exploring how and why artists experiment with interconnections between printmaking and drawing, collage, painting, textiles, sculpture, photography, digital imaging, animation or film. Classroom investigations could focus on how collage and printmaking informed the visual and critical language of Cubism, Dada, Pop Art or Postmodernism. Students could also explore how traditional printmaking methods have been adapted and transformed to interpret and represent contemporary issues and subject matter, including hybrid identities, urban life and landscapes, digital culture, and the revisioning of histories and narratives. Refer to Common Works’ animated print project ‘Pictures of the Floating World’, and the practice of William Kentridge, Sindiso Khumalo, Stathis Tsemberlidis and Mandy Pane.
  • Explore how printmaking forms an integral part of our daily lives and visual culture, as a means for personal, collective and mass communication. Challenge students to brainstorm, research and record all forms of prints which they might encounter, collect or create during a given timeframe, such as over the course of an hour, day or week. For example, tickets, receipts, photos, magazines, advertising material, billboards, postcards, letters, photocopies, clothing, consumer packaging, tyre marks, digital fingerprint locks or other temporal traces or impressions in their surrounding environment. Students can collect, photograph, draw or film these forms, then individually or collaboratively create a physical, digital and/or moving collage that maps their encounters over time. This could be extended into series of artworks using techniques such as monoprinting, etching, frottage, linocut, stencils or digital editing.
  • Research the historical development and role of printmaking as a means for reproducing, publishing and distributing images and texts. Analyse the impact of technological advancements on the evolution of printmaking, such as papermaking, improved printing presses and digital imaging. Discuss how printmaking has served powerful social and political functions in the dissemination of images, artworks, ideas, ideals and ideologies across time and place. Evaluate the role of art as a means for social commentary and critique, considering how prints act as a powerful means for public protest. Refer to a range of historical and contemporary examples, such as anti-war and anti-discrimination campaigns, street art and paste ups. Consider the practice of artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Katsushika Hokusai, Francisco Goya, Käthe Kollwitz, Andy Warhol, Banksy or Swoon.
  • Evaluate the nature and status of printmaking as a medium that generates copies and multiples, examining the concept of originality in art. Discuss the notion and value of the ‘copy’ in contemporary culture, considering how our visual landscape is saturated with images, advertising and simulacrums or copies of copies. Refer to Jean Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ and the blurring of reality and representation in our screen-based lives. Explore the postmodern strategy of appropriation and how artists intentionally recontextualise pre-existing images, artworks and texts, to comment on the ‘original’ and generate alternative readings and meanings. Experiment with copies and multiples in artmaking, manipulating scale, colour, texture, layers, transparency, noise and appropriated imagery to generate distorted, abstract, sensory or symbolic qualities. Reference the practice of Lindy Lee, Gerhard Richter, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Ross and Deborah Kelly.
  • Investigate the idea and significance of ‘controlled chance’ in artmaking, with a focus on the practice of historical and/or contemporary printmakers. Explore how a balance between chance and control can be thought to underlie the practice of all artists, including students’ own practice as artists. Reflect on the interplay between intuitive, spontaneous acts, accidental discoveries and incidental learning, and intentional, informed decision-making and choices. Discuss the importance of setting up frameworks for investigation which allow for structured freedom, positive risk-taking and trust in the artmaking process itself. Trace how specific artists move through a process of brainstorming, research, planning, concept development, experimentation, reflection, refinement and material resolution. Scaffold the development of students’ own artmaking process and practice through project-based learning or tasks that incorporate big questions, authentic scenarios, structured freedom in the form of conceptual and material options, sustained inquiry, and student voice and choice.

Syllabus outcomes

A student:

  • explores the roles and relationships between concepts of artist, artwork, world and audience through critical and historical investigations of art (Conceptual framework, p 8, Visual Arts Stage 6)
  • explores ways in which significant art histories, critical narratives and other documentary accounts of the visual arts can be constructed (Representation, p 10, Visual Arts Stage 6)

Additional syllabus outcomes


  • Promote play and the development of students’ own distinctive visual language through the investigation of diverse printmaking processes, materials, tools and mark-making approaches. Explore simple techniques such as frottage, monoprinting, stamping, stencils, chine-collé, drypoint etching, collagraphy, kitchen litho or ebru to create a series of prints that could be drawn or painted over, stitched, collaged or digitised. Experiment with available technologies such as laser-cut lino, risography or digital printing onto fabric to extend material and conceptual possibilities.
  • Activate the ties between printmaking, drawing, painting and photography. Translate drawings, paintings and/or photographs into prints, observing and emphasising the translation of particular lines, marks, textures, tones, details and sensory qualities. Experiment with different mark-making tools and techniques, variations in composition, layers and transparency. Form images directly or indirectly by drawing or painting on the printing plate. Once the print is dry, explore the potential of hand-colouring and autographic mark-making using pencils, pastels, washes, markers or highlighters. Refer to the practice of Nanette Wallace, Grace Exley, Sam Luke Heath and Chuck Close.
  • Discuss how printmaking can be thought of as a process through which marks, images or impressions are transferred from one surface to another, which opens up the possibility for any surfaces to be used. Explore how printing on different surfaces creates opportunities to develop material and symbolic layers, resulting from changes in the texture, saturation and absorption of ink. Experiment with creating prints and impressions on unusual surfaces such as cloth, clay, concrete, wood, hand-painted paper, glass, perspex, or the environment itself. Refer to Eleonora Sher’s series ‘Landscape and Memory’ and the work of Rachel Neale, Andreea Mandrescu, Therese Lebrun, Marilene Oliver and Thomas Klipper.
  • Translate 2D prints into 3D forms. Experiment with folding, stitching, collage and/or layering 2D prints to construct 3D sculptural forms. Consider relationships between printed shapes, imagery, positive and negative spaces, illusions, and internal and external structures. Create embossed relief prints to emphasise textures, patterns, lighting and shadows. Cut out, recombine, reassemble and hang elements to create juxtapositions, distortions, wearable artworks or site-specific installations. Refer to the practice of Carol Wyss, Susan Robey and Sally Smart.
  • Animate a sequence of prints to create a short film, considering each print as an individual frame. Alternatively, work over the same print or plate experimenting with the addition or subtraction of marks, details, layers or areas. Photograph or scan each frame, exploring the significance of transitions, narrative and the flow of time. Conversely, translate and deconstruct a film into a series of prints. Pause or screenshot the film and create monoprints by placing acetate over the screen, or monoprint from drawings or paintings of film stills. Experiment with ghost printing and building details from traces and shadows of ink remaining on the printing plate. Refer to Catherine Cartwright’s ‘Two Minute Memorial’, and the approaches of Gill Roth and William Kentridge.
  • Explore natural processes and cycles as a means for printmaking and exploring interconnections between the human and natural worlds. Utilise rain, sunlight, erosion, crystallisation and rust to generate organic, unexpected images, impressions, marks, textures, hues, compositions and transformations. Consider the reciprocal relationship between the fields of art and science, and the role of experimentation in both. Print directly from nature using plants, seed pods, branches, coral, sand, stones or earth. Consider the practice of Serena Smith, Amelia Phillips and Emily Harvey.
  • Experiment with alternative modes of presenting a series or edition of prints to engage audiences, such as artist books, zines, accordion folds, panoramas, scrolls, stitched compositions, floating screens, box frames, Turkish-map folds and wearables. Refer to ‘The Sketchbook Project’ and the practice of Laurie Alpert, Bettina Pauly, Katherine Venturelli and Macy Chadwick.
  • Channel the surreal, nonsensical and irrational to generate unusual connections and subconscious associations, to inspire a series of printmaking experiments. Explore collage, automatic drawing and the Surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse to create experimental compositions, juxtapositions and abstractions. Inversions between dreams and reality could be achieved through additive and subtractive monoprinting, and chine-collé could be used to highlight unusual hybrids, contrasts and focal points. Refer to the work of Man Ray, André Masson, Joan Miró and Hannah Höch.
  • Deconstruct found objects or images, investigating how the process of fragmentation provokes possibilities for reconfigurations, reassembling and mending. Break apart what is familiar, analyse details and component parts, and reconstruct meanings, memories and frameworks for viewing the world. Discuss Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the ‘readymade’, Tod McLellan’s series Things Come Apart, the work of Claire Willberg and Keiko Matsui’s mended ‘scar’ vessels. Form a series of prints based on this process of fragmentation and/or mending. Continuous line drawing, monoprinting, embossing and/or collagraphy could be used to create material and conceptual threads.
  • Compare printmaking to the process of mapping, inscribing, visualising, sensing, documenting and embedding a place or journey in time and over time. Map the natural landscape, human body, urban environment, patterns of movement or inhabitation, miniature versus macro, past and present or interior versus exterior, experimenting with a range of printmaking techniques, materials and surfaces. Play with perspective, scale, transparency, topographies, patterns, textures, sculptural transformations and working on location, referencing the work of Sadie Tierney, Slawomir Chrystow, Dolores de Sade, Karolyn Morovati and Michael Chance, Elisabeth Lecourt, Heidi Whitman and Nikki Rosato.


A student:

  • investigates subject matter and forms as representations in artmaking (Representation, p 4, Visual Arts Stage 6)
  • investigates ways of developing coherence and layers of meaning in the making of art (Conceptual strength and meaning, p 5, Visual Arts Stage 6)
  • explores a range of material techniques in ways that support artistic intentions (Resolution, p 6, Visual Arts Stage 6)

Additional outcomes

References and further reading


  • Chen, J. (2013). 500 handmade books (volume 2). New York, NY: Lark Crafts.
  • Salvaje. P. (2017). Animalkind. London, England: Prestel.
  • Bell, A. C. (2016). Clay: Contemporary ceramic artisans. Port Melbourne, Australia: Thames & Hudson.
  • Estrada, S. & Sala, F. (2013). Geo graphic: A book for map lovers. USA: Index Books.
  • Macphee, J. (Ed.). (2009). Paper politics: Socially engaged printmaking today. Oakland, USA: PM Press.
  • Grabowski, B. & Fick, B. (2009). Printmaking: A complete guide to materials and processes. London, England: Laurence King Publishing.
  • Alexia, T. (2009). Printmaking handbook: Installations & experimental printmaking. London, England: A & C Black.
  • Moore, A. (2018). The collage ideas book. London, England: Octopus Publishing Group.
  • Stanfield, F. (2019). The drawing ideas book. London, England: Octopus Publishing Group.
  • Peter, J. (2015). The kitchen art studio. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Stanfield, F. & McGeown, L. (2019). The printmaking ideas book (ebook). London, England: Octopus Publishing Group.
  • McLellan, T. (2014). Things come apart: A teardown manual for modern living. London, England: Thames & Hudson.


How to cite this article – Yip, H. 2020, 'SPaRK – The Printmaking Ideas Book', Scan 39(9).

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