Monday, February 1, 2010

Use Styrofoam Take-out Food Container to Create Art

Styrofoam Take-out food containers are the bane of the environment and have been suggested to be health hazards. Many countries and municipalities have banned them outright, including China and San Francisco, because they are slow to degrade and introduce lots of polystyrene and potentially other damaging chemicals into the environment and food chains when they reach dumps.

An alternative use for these take-out food containers is as a substrate for art, such as in relief printmaking. The thicker the styrofoam, the better for this alternative use.

To make a relief, you will carve away the part of a picture you don't want printed, leaving only the intended image raise. An ink or paint is then rolled (or more rarely brushed) onto the surface. If done correctly, the cut-away portion will not take paint and the finished image will therefore just be the residual raised portion.

Needed supplies:

• Water-based ink/paint
• Heavy styrofoam take-out containers
• Sketching paper and ballpoint pens/pencils
• Small foam paint rollers or brushers
• Scissors
• Surface covering (newspaper, tarp, drop cloth)

Step-by-step directions:
1. Cut a flat piece of styrofoam from the take-out container.
2. Cut sketching paper to match the styrofoam piece
3. Sketch a design on the sketching paper -- Note: if using words or numbers, print them backwards as they will mirror during the relief process.
4. Place the sketch on the plate and trace the design onto the plate by pressing firmly with a ballpoint pen (another sharp object also can be used to etch the design onto the plate)
5. Very lightly load the roller brush with paint. Too much will let the paint seep into the cracks. Run it back and forth before applying to remove excess.
6. Lightly brush the roller across the etched plate (so as to apply to raised, but not indented surfaces)
7. Apply a clean piece of paper to the plate, and it will "stamp" the relief design onto the paper.

Voila, you have made a relief using your styrofoam template relief stamp.

A fun idea is to use this technique to make cards for loved ones. Note that you can use favorite designs over and over, or try to use different colors in different parts of the designs.

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