Make: Relief Prints

I recently graduated from Shoreline, but that doesn’t mean I could resist one more school project. It all started when my amazing printmaking professor, Natalie, brought up the idea of steamroller printmaking casually in class. Then again in an art club meeting. None of us knew what was involved so with a bit of prodding we found out that steamroller printmaking is exactly as cool as it sounds. Let me explain:

A relief print is made using tools to carve away the blank spaces in an image, leaving the portion that is to be black raised. Then you use a brayer to evenly coat the surface in ink and use pressure to transfer the image onto paper. Voila! Except, you can imagine, the steamroller version is much bigger. The width of the steamroller is about 4 feet, so our smaller boards are 4 ft x 3 ft and the larger ones are 4 ft x 8 ft.

Step 1: Design

Once the ball was rolling on our big idea, members of the art club went about applying for (and winning!) grant money from school. When we told the steamroller company why we wanted their services, they decided to offer them for free! With all that money we were able to get boards and carving tools for everyone. Being that we’re laying the whole thing out on the ground, I wasn’t sure which way would be up or if my design would necessarily flow into others’ work. This became the basis for my drawing. I wanted something I could flip either way and find pleasing. I also wanted my image to be segmented. Our theme was diversity in campus life. It’s vague and yet specific. Diversity makes me think less about how we’re different and more about how we’re the same. Down to the cellular level. Cell formation became the inspiration for the lace corner. Owls and trees are just a general recurring theme in my work. Oh, and I love that when you look at it owl side up, the other one looks almost like a bat hanging from a branch.

Step 2: Prepping & Projecting


The MDF board was extra soft. To prep it for all the carving, I coated it with one good layer of acrylic primer. Once my drawing was finalized I copied it onto a transparency sheet and used my projector to draw the image on my board with a Sharpie. As you can see, Pokie helped.

Step 3: Carving

Now that the easy part is done, it’s time to carve. I spent about 6 hours working on it so far and there’s still a ways to go. But you know I’m happy when my hands are covered in sawdust.


I’ll be back to show you what it looks like all finished and showcase our art fair (June 28th-29th)! What projects are working on these days? Making anything outlandish, awesome or outlandishly awesome? I want to know! Put in the comments below.

Ex Oh,

Sunshine Wray

Author: Brianna Wray

I'm an artist in Seattle just living the dream.

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