How Your Kids Can Make Valentine’s Day Cards That Are Sure to Stand Out
Tired of buying the same old valentines as all of the other kids, full of commercial characters and silly sayings?
Looking for a fun art project you can do together?
Create your own unique handmade valentines this year.
In this article I’ll show you how to use a simple printmaking technique to design and print your own Valentine’s Day cards that will win everyone’s hearts.
Why Make Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards?
Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate and appreciate those you love. It is very common for friends and family to exchange valentine cards as a small token of affection. Why not create a unique handmade personalized valentine instead of using the same store-bought ones as everyone else?
According to History.com, Americans have been exchanging valentines since as early as the 1700s. By 1900, printed cards began to replace handmade valentines due to advancements in printing techniques.
Valentine’s Day is one of the largest card-sending holidays of the year, second only to Christmas.
By creating handmade cards, you give your kids a chance to be creative and express themselves while they make art that can be shared with their friends and loved ones.
Printmaking is an easy way to turn one drawing into many cards that can be shared with your family and friends. Each printed card is a unique piece of handmade art!
Printmaking is a versatile art technique that is easy to use with your kids. In the method I’ll show you below, you use Styrofoam plates to create and transfer your art onto paper.
You can make your designs as simple or complex as you’d like.
Watch this video for an introduction to the Styrofoam block printing process.
This project is easy and fun for kids of all ages, moms and dads included! Here’s what you need:
#1: Gather Supplies
Collect everything you need for this project so you have your supplies easily at hand while you work.
Choose colors of paper and ink that you think will make good valentine combinations.
#2: Cut Your Valentine’s Day Cards
Each piece of construction paper will make two Valentine’s Day cards.
You will need to cut each piece of paper in half.
#3: Preparing Your Card and Plate
Fold each of the cut pieces of construction paper in half to create your Valentine’s Day cards.
The Styrofoam plates will be used to create your ink plate.
Turn a plate upside down on your table. Lay your card on top of the plate and trace along the edges to get an idea of how big your card is. This will give you a guide to know how big to make your ink plate.
#4: Cutting Out Your Plate
Now that you have a guide for how large to make your plate for your card, you’ll need to trim it out from the bottom of the plate. You will only need the flat bottom part of the plate.
Once you’ve cut your card shape out from the bottom of the plate, set it aside.
Cut one plate for each different design you would like to make. It’s a good idea to have a few extra plates on hand just in case you make a mistake.
Each card you design will need its own plate. Once you have enough plates cut, you’re ready to draw!
#5: Drawing on Your Plate
Now it’s time to create your work of art. Draw the design you want to print on your valentines on the Styrofoam with a pencil. Keep in mind that the design will print backward.
The secret to printmaking with Styrofoam plates is that you push down firmly with your pencil on the plate while you draw (this is called inscribing). The plates are soft, and with pressure your lines create little grooves in the plate. Just be careful not to push so hard that you push all the way through the plate.
With this printmaking technique, your artwork will be left uncolored. The ink will color the negative space—the space you did not draw on.
So when you roll ink onto the Styrofoam, you’ll notice that the ink will not go into the grooves made by the pencil. These areas will show as your drawing on the paper.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you draw your valentines:
- Use a pencil that is a little bit dull. If your pencil is too sharp, it might puncture the plate.
- Take your time. You can draw lightly on the plate first to create your design then go over the drawing with more pressure to create the grooves once you are happy with your drawing.
- Have lots of plates handy in case you make a mistake.
- If your design includes words, write the words BACKWARD (like what you see in a mirror).
I’ve created some easy steps to follow below for creating cards with writing.
To Write Words Backward on a Plate:
Write the words that you would like your card to say on one of the Styrofoam rectangles.
Use a felt-tip non-permanent marker and trace over the words inside the grooves (this transfers ink to the edges of the letters).
Press the plate with the marker on top of a new clean plate. When you separate the plates, you will see a backward marker impression of your words on the new plate.
Trace over the marker impressions in the second plate with a dull pencil. The marker will leave you something that looks like a stencil. The letters should appear backward.
Make sure to press hard enough to create deep grooves with your pencil, but be careful not to push through the plate.
You’ll use the plate with the backward writing to print your card.
In your finished drawing on the Styrofoam, you will see the words backward, but they will print like you normally read and write them.
If words are too tricky, just stick with simple shapes and designs for your cards, especially for very young children.
You can use special scissors to create a fancy edge for your design if you’d like.
Once you finish the artwork on one of the plates, turn it over and use tape to attach a small piece of one of your plate scraps. This handle will make it easier to move your plate once it has ink on it and help keep your fingers clean!
#6: Ink Your Plate and Print Your Card
Once you have your drawing completed, you’re ready to start printing!
Spread out some paper towels to cover the area where you will be inking your plate.
Squeeze an inch or so of ink onto one of the untrimmed Styrofoam plates.
Roll your brayer (ink roller) back and forth in the ink about 30 times. You want to make sure it’s evenly coated with a thin layer of ink before you use it.
Then roll the ink-covered brayer over your artwork on the Styrofoam. You’ll notice that the areas you indented with your pencil do not get covered in ink.
Once you’ve evenly covered your plate with ink, use the little tab you created to move your plate to a clean paper towel.
Take one of your folded cards and pay attention to where the folded edge of the card should be. Make sure your artwork will be right side up and readable if you included writing.
Gently place the card on top of the plate and press on them to transfer the ink onto the paper.
Carefully peel apart the paper and the plate to reveal your printed card.
To make additional cards in this color, add more ink to the plate with the brayer between each one you make.
To print the same design in a different color, just rinse the Styrofoam plate and brayer in water, dry them off and repeat the process from Step #6 using a different-colored ink and a new construction paper card.
The nice thing about printmaking is that once you’ve spent time creating the original design in Styrofoam, it’s very quick and easy to make multiple copies. You can create original handmade cards for everyone in your family or your child’s class quickly and easily.
#7: Finishing Touches
Now that you’ve printed your first card, have fun and be creative!
You can take these basic printmaking steps and create many different variations for your valentines.
Make sure to personalize your valentines with a special note inside to your friends.
You may even want to include a sweet surprise for your valentines!
Some Final Thoughts…
We had a lot of fun creating our handmade valentines and I bet your family will, too. Printmaking is a fun and easy way to create greeting cards any time of year for your family and friends.
People love to receive handmade cards, especially from a child who is dear to them.
I hope you will use this printing technique to explore and create more projects. The possibilities are endless.
Creative time spent with your kids is always time well spent!
What do you think? Have you ever made handmade valentines? Or tried printmaking with your kids? Please share your creative ideas, pictures and comments below.
Crystal Foth is a mom and artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She manages 19 Southern California art studios and spends her free time enjoying creative adventures with her daughter. Other posts by Crystal Foth »