Pop Shop 3 – Printmaking (Tee Shirts)



Learn printmaking, including printing Tee shirts, based on the images of Haring's work.


Students will learn about printmaking on various technical levels;
How to achieve various densities of color and opacity.
How to define texture and flatness.
How to relate pressure and consistency to a successful print.
Students will develop a familiarization with the tools and materials introduced.
Students will explore the outcome and possibilities with duplication as an art medium.


Linoleum block or Styrofoam plate (Whichever material was chosen)
Speedball acrylic block printing ink (Full range of color choices)
Brayers (one for each ink color chosen)
Flat metal inking trays / plexiglass sheets / Styrofoam trays (all of which can be used to roll ink on)
Thick drawing paper (no smaller than 8" x 10")
Men's short sleeved crewneck undershirts
Masonite drawing boards
Brown or white craft paper rolls


Show students various forms of prints and printmaking methods so they may see the wide range of possibilities. Ask them to name some things that are printed. They will be quite surprised to see how many things require methods of printing. Have the students investigate why we print so many things. What is the purpose of the mass production of images and text? What can many of the same image do?

Place prepared ink in their corresponding rolling trays with one brayer for each color. This method can cause a classroom to get very busy when every child wants to use a different color and the students are too young to determine the quantity appropriately themselves. The following solution allows for quick, efficient prints, a faster clean up, and satisfaction for all of the students. For older students, the emphasis can be more on independence. However, with both age groups, keep in mind that printmaking allows for virtually limitless possibilities, but also requires a lot of specific applied information.

Note: The rules must be rigid for this to work, warning students that they must wait on line and handle all materials with clean hands.

Assign each table group an Ink color. On that table, every student knows he/she will find that color with a brayer. There will be a line next to each table that forms from the children who choose to use that desired color.

Preparing the Ink
Squeeze about a nickel sized dollop of ink on to the surface you will be rolling the ink out on (not the paper or T-shirt).

Use your brayer (roller) to create an even consistent coat of ink on the plate's surface. You should hear a "clicking" noise created by the friction. If the brayer glides on the surface, there is too much ink and some of it should be removed, otherwise the print will looked smudged. It is imperative that the ink is rolled out prior to printing. This prepares evenness for the brayer to coat the surface of your depressed image with.

Suggestion: The instructor may like to experiment with this before students arrive so they feel sure of the sound and pressure they should be expecting.

Have some clean paper available so students do not have to sift through clean piles of it with their dirty sticky hands.

Taking the brayer, slowly guide it over the surface of your Styrofoam plate or Linoleum block. Use big, consistent strokes, do not stop and start, but run your brayer from one end to the other. Carefully notice the corners and edges are covered and that the ink is consistent in its opacity. Ink should not be oozing into the grooves, this means there is too much ink and the print will look smudged.

Lay the paper flat on the table. Lifting your plate or block from the corners in such a way so that no ink is sacrificed from your surface, turn it over and suspend it over the paper face down. Hover your image over the paper until it seems centered. Place the image down gently without any reluctance. From the moment your block or plate touches the paper, there can be no shifting or readjusting, otherwise, the result will look fuzzy or smudged. The plate or block should be sticking to the paper, but carefully support the art while you turn the entire package over together (plate with paper attached).

Using one hand to hold the paper in place, using the other to gently, but firmly rub the carved impression on to the paper. ONE HAND MUST ALWAYS BE KEEPING THE PAPER IN PLACE otherwise the paper will shift, resulting in a fuzzy, smudged image.

When the students can see through the paper that there is a consistent, even transfusion of color and opacity that?s been lifted from the plate and applied to the paper, the student, with clean fingertips, will carefully release the paper from the plate or block by pinching one corner of the paper and slowly pulling it inch by inch from the block or plate, prepared to catch the bottom end when it flips up.

Lay print to dry in a cool, still place for one day. Students can then sign, title, and matte it if they choose.

Using the practice scraps of Styrofoam or linoleum that were saved from the previous lesson, do group printing all over a craft roll of paper. This will be used later on in Lesson 4.

After practicing on paper for a while, the students should be ready for T-Shirts? Each student should decide exactly where he or she wants his or her image to appear on the shirt. Remind them to think creatively about composing it, just as they would a drawing on paper. It does not have to appear smack, dab in the middle of the shirt. However, if one does choose to put their symbol in the middle, it should sit approximately 2 to 4 inches from the neck, otherwise it will look to low and sit in the stomach region. Wherever the special spot will be, have students lightly pencil in a small perpendicular guide that they can use to line up their block or plate.

The shirts must be stretched so that the ink can be submerged properly in the weave. The best way to do this is by fitting a T-shirt over a large wooden or cardboard rectangle such as a masonite drawing board. The shirt should feel stretched to the point of maximum capacity. At this stage it is ready for printing.

Using the same approach that was used to print on paper, prepare the ink by rolling it on the inked surface with a brayer until there are "clicking" sounds. Roll the inked brayer on the plate or block until the coat of ink looks even and consistent in coverage and in density and opacity on the carved surface.

The stretched shirt should be facing upward with the marked out region bulls eye to the student. Carefully lift the block or plate and turn it upside down so that the image faces the T-shirt. Hover it over the marked area until it seems to fit the desired location. Press firmly WITHOUT shifting or moving the plate. Gently remove the drawing board from the T-shirt, keeping one hand on the plate so it does not move. Turn package over (plate and T). Put both hands in the shirt and, using one hand to keep fabric stable, rub the image into the T-shirt with the other. Peak inside to confirm its consistency. When ready, carefully remove T-shirt from block or plate.

Remind students that rushing out of excitement will lead to a bad print a ruined T-shirt, so going slowly and cautiously will reap the desired effect.

If there is still time left in class, the students may print more shirts.

Hang shirts or lay down flat to dry for one day.

Printmaking can be very messy in addition to involving numerous tools and materials. The more one practices the better one gets at managing a class and maintaining a sense of order and clarity. However, this is a very physical process, and similar to sculpture, requires the students to stand up, coordinate with one another, move around, and perform various tasks. Accept this as part of the excitement and things will begin to go smoothly.

Printmaking is also a very technical process and requires a lot of patience and focus. Do not move on to T-shirts if the class does not seem mature enough technically for the next step. Remind them continuously to stay focused and rotate individual attention on each child. Allow at least 10 minutes for clean-up and have a designated area beforehand to keep prints and plates or blocks safe and free from traffic


Check out the Museum of Modern Art's wonderfully illustrated site on PRINTMAKING.