Printing Workshop is a fun activity for Hong Kong children on rainy days

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 8:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 8:26am

The aftermath of the art mania that took over Hong Kong in March seemed like a good time to try something besides the usual paintbrush play with my children. Chameleon Workshop's printmaking pack hit the sweet spot, promising to give the little ones a taste of some of the techniques used by such art greats as Picasso, Matisse and Warhol.

The packs arrived in a colourful package that had my preschoolers raring to go. Each contains all the material you'd need, including non-toxic and water-soluble black printing ink and a well-designed instruction booklet.

I first tried relief printing with my three-year-old daughter, who was less interested in drawing her own design on the Styrofoam - I ended up doing it for her, while holding her hand - than having a go at the roller. Spreading the ink on the acrylic sheet and rolling it smoothly was her favourite part. The roller is then rolled onto one's design, before a blank cardboard is placed on the Styrofoam to create a print. We decided our minimalistic bamboo print could be posted to Grandma as a birthday card.

The styrofoam can be washed and reused, though my daughter seemed bent on creating a new masterpiece each time. Cutting the Styrofoam into smaller pieces worked well for her as she didn't seem to want to fill the entire A4 size sheet, anyway.

My four-year-old son joined us for the next technique, trace monotype printing, favoured by Degas, Gauguin and Klee. After the acrylic sheet is inked, paper is placed on the surface, and a drawing is done on top. Although this technique is described as tricky, I found they took to it well. Younger ones tend to press down hard with the pencil, which works for this technique. The resulting work shows dark, well-defined lines, which my little artists liked.

The final technique, monotype printing, used by one of my favourite artists, William Blake, was most favoured by my little ones, probably because it involved a paintbrush. Here, one paints with the ink onto the acrylic sheet, and then cover with a paper, which is rolled.

The resulting work is dramatic, although "ghost prints" are possible if there's ink left on the acrylic sheet. And using the kit can be slightly messy, so a plastic sheet on the table before starting and aprons for everyone, as recommended by the guide, are a good idea. Creating these with coloured paper or paints might also create interesting effects.

As someone who has admired but never quite understood the finer points of printmaking, it was an education for me, too. The packs' stated age range of three to 99 years fits the bill. Verdict: a well-designed and fun activity that can be done at home. Perfect for rainy days.

Printing Workshop by Chameleon Workshop/Nobel Creative, available from Dymocks Sai Kung and Wan Chai, Artland, HKTDC Design Gallery, and online at HK$189