Lesson #4: Cutting the First Layer

Part of the unit: Creating a Portrait Print |


Why is it important to use the appropriate tool for printmaking?
Students will be able to:
Cut away the shapes that will appear white in the print
Safely use the speedball cutters
Students will understand that:
Artists select appropriate tools to get the desired effect.

Student printing blocks; size 1, 2, 3, and 5 speedball cutters and handles, four-color sketches

Note to Teachers:  Use enamel paint pens to number the cutters.  Set up a system for the distribution and return of the cutters.


Ask a student volunteer to show his/her four-color sketch. 

  • Which areas should he/she cut away first?  Why?

Ask the class to put an x in each shape on their printing block that will remain white.  These shapes will be cut away first.


The teacher should demonstrate the proper use and handling of the speedball cutters, emphasizing that students must cut away from the body. He/she should demonstrate gouging out short, thick lines when cutting.

  • Why do we have four different size cutters available?

Students should be directed to select the size cutter to match the size of the shape being cut away.


Students will use the speedball cutters to cut away the shapes on their printing blocks that will appear white.

  • What decisions did you have to make before cutting into the block?
  • What challenges did you encounter and how did you solve them?
  • Why is it important to use an appropriate tool for this process?