In my experience, much of the success of block printing relies on how the
ink is applied and the quality of the ink. Here is how I would approach the problem:
First of all, start with a good quality block
printing ink--a brand name that you can rely on, like Speedball water
based ink, Blick or Sax water based inks.
Second, get a good
quality brayer, one that is wide enough and heavy enough to disperse
the ink and ensure consistency on the inking plate. Don't cheap out
Third, roll the ink on a scrupulously clean sheet of
plexiglass or glass that is at least 12x18 inches. That will give you
adequate surface to roll the ink and get it to the proper consistency.
A dirty glass will produce dirty prints, plain and simple.
and this is very important, roll the ink until it is no longer ribbony
and wet, but starts to become "tacky" feeling and looks like a finely
textured paper. Once that is achieved, it is ready to print with. With
experience, you will gain a sense of when ink is ready to print with--it
is a combination of sight and sound.
Fifth, roll the brayer
on the block and press firmly, rolling the ink over the entire block and
observing how evenly you have covered the surface.
register the paper on top of the block, not the other way around, and
use your fingers to thoroughly rub the back of the printing paper in
order to evenly transfer the ink. You can use a platen or clean roller
for this, but I find the pads of your fingers do a better job and gives a
tactile quality to the process. Do not stretch this step out, because
the ink will begin to stick to the paper and you won't like the results.
Pull the print and place it out to dry. Every time you print, you
must re-ink the block.
A word about printing paper. I have found
that paper with a lot of tooth, i.e. construction paper, drawing paper,
etc. is NOT good paper for block printing. A good printing paper is
one that is relatively smooth, with a harder surface rather than softer,
such as fadeless art paper or even computer printing paper works just
fine and is much cheaper than paper made for block printing. Toothy
papers give a faded look rather than vivid look because they absorb the
ink unevenly. I used black ink only, but printed on colorful papers to
give contrast, graphic impact and variety to the printing process.
I have used these techniques for over 30 years and have had great success
with the process. I know there are purists out there that may
disagree, but experience has taught me to experiment and refine as you
go when learning different media. The bottom line is that you must do
many prints yourself before you can teach these techniques to others, so
have fun and print!