Monday, December 23, 2013

Potato Print Gift Wrap - DIY Tutorial

Potato printing is a simple version of relief printing that anyone can do at home.  Its fun and the results can be really special.  Kids love to help too, and you can involve them in the process for a great holiday craft activity.  

You will need- 
clean potatoes in various sizes
a large kitchen knife
a small kitchen knife or paring knife
optional - lino carving tools
acrylic or waterbased paint
plastic disposable plates or similar
large sheets of newsprint paper or kraft paper and card to print on

I've chosen some of my favourite Australian wildflowers as the motifs for this project but you can print any simple shape you can think of.  If you aren't an accomplished carver, stick to simple shapes like stars (great printed in silver paint) christmas trees or other Christmassy shapes.  Think about what colours you'd like to use too.

In my first design depicting a waratah flower I need to cut two separate potatoes because I'm using two colours - one for the flower and one for the stalk.  Choose a potato that resembles the shape you are wanting to print - theres less cutting that way.  Using the large kitchen knife, slice the potato in half cleanly so that you have a flat even surface to cut into.  It needs to be as flat as possible to print well.

Draw your design onto the cut surface of the potato with a pencil - coloured pencils seem to work best.  Carefully, with the small paring knife or lino carving tools, cut away the areas you don't want to print, leaving your design as a raised area.

Use the plastic picnic plate to put out your paint - a plastic spoon is great for mixing colours if you need to.  Spread the paint out and press your carved potato into it, ensuring you get good coverage over the entire raised area. A clean stamping action works well for a clear print.  You will get two or three stamps before you need to re-ink.  If you get too much paint on the potato, use some paper kitchen towel to remove the excess. 

 Have your newsprint or kraft paper spread out on a flat clear surface and apply the print, thinking about how you would like to repeat the patter.  A simple repeat pattern looks great, but as you go you'll want to try other repeating patterns.  It's all part of the fun.
Once we've done the green stalks of our waratah flower, we print the flower.  You can see that the shape of the potato we've used really suits the shape of the flower - this helps with simplifying the cutting process.  It also means that the potato keeps its shape for longer and you can get more printing done.  We tried our waratah design on different papers and in different patterns.  

Using waterbased paint means your gift wrap will dry quickly.  Hang it up somewhere where it can dry without smudging.

We also made some gift tags using our waratah design.  Simply print your design onto heavy card, leave it to dry, and cut around it for a special one-of-a-kind gift tag.

If you'd like to try different colours with your potato block, you can wash it gently under the tap and pat it dry.  Then try your new colour.

The potato printing process can produce some great rustic results - it teams well with simple jute twine or burlap ribbon and make s for a really special and memorable gift!

This project was created for the Etsy Australia Blog as part of their DIY Advent Calendar 2013.