More than anything else, we get questions about tools and materials. Below you'll find a list of everything used most regularly in the Rise + Wander studio, along with a little bit of (hopefully helpful) commentary. These opinions are based on personal experience, and it’s important to remember that experimenting on your own is crucial. Your personal preferences might vary wildly, and it's up to you to determine what works best for your technique and style.
We purchase just about everything through Blick Art Materials, Amazon, or directly from Legion Paper. When looking for the best places to buy tools, we look for quality, but also good prices, quick shipping, and helpful customer service. As such, Blick tends to be the go-to.
As you scroll through the page, you’ll see links for certain items. In the interest of full transparency, Rise + Wander participates in two affiliate programs. This in no way influences the list shared here, but is rather a way to make it easier for you to shop, while also compensating us for our time, research, etc. It’s a win/win!
And, on that note, here’s the fine print: Rise + Wander is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We also participate in Blick's affiliate program. This said, the following opinions are based solely on real experience and preferences, written with no regard to the affiliate programs.
I spent my first year of printmaking using Speedball's lino-cutter, which comes with interchangeable heads and a comfortable plastic handle. Replacement heads are easy and inexpensive. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to start printing, as it’s highly affordable, extremely easy to use and care for, and can last you many years.
When I finally decided to invest in a set of premium tools, I chose Pfeil’s set C and am endlessly happy with the upgrade. I chose Set C because it included all the gouges I use most often, but it’s important to really consider what you personally will need. A little pricey, but worth it. Keep in mind these require sharpening!
I alternate mostly between two kinds of rubber and linoleum blocks, depending on the project. Each has its benefits, as well as its quirks. I buy all three from Blick.
Battleship Gray Linoleum is wonderfully inexpensive and can be found in extremely large sizes (24"x36" mounted). It tends to be a slower process, as the material is harder and more prone to cracking if you're not careful. The blocks can also harden over time if not properly cared for, especially with frequent use. I like to buy the pre-mounted blocks, as a personal preference; the mounting makes them really easy to handle while printing.
Blick makes a two-toned rubber called Ready-Cut that's a bit more expensive, but still very reasonable. It also comes in a variety of sizes, with its largest being 12"x18". It carves smoothly and easily, with only a little snagging here and there if your tools aren’t sharpened properly. It has become my preference lately.
Speedball makes a pink rubber called Speedy Carve, which I find to be the smoothest to carve, extremely durable, and just a dream to work with. It's a little pricier to buy, but really worth it for particularly important projects. Unfortunately, they're a little more limited on sizes, with the largest being right around 12"x12". Also, don't be confused by their similarly named materials; remember to look for the pink rubber.
There are so many different options available, and this is one area it’s especially important to experiment for yourself to determine what you enjoy carving and what will print best for you. You want to ensure you enjoy the experience from start to finish!
I use Speedball's Professional line of water-miscible, oil-based relief printing ink the most often, as it provides excellent coverage and is relatively easy to clean up (water-based will always be the easiest, let’s face it). If you’re just starting out with printmaking, I definitely recommend buying either Speedball’s water-soluble ink or the Blick version. Speedball has a lovely water-soluble ink starter set with multiple colors to try out.
Please understand that for many projects, you’re completely fine to use water-soluble ink - and if you’re doing anything with kids it’s actually preferable. There is a bit of a misconception that oil-based is automatically better. Water-miscible works really, really well with great coverage and viscosity. That said, oil-based is especially important for mixed-media projects, like adding watercolor, as the ink won't bleed. It’s also important for creating beautiful highly-pigmented archival pieces.
Next to material, I find inks to be one of the most finicky elements of printmaking - one printmaker might swear by a certain brand, while another has nothing nice to say about it. This is an area I really encourage you to branch out and experiment before settling on a favorite. All sorts of factors can affect what works for you personally, from your style to your climate.
I have many Speedball brayers (the thing you use to roll the paint onto your block). Some are the Speedball Deluxe 4" Soft Rubber Brayer, a couple are 2" Soft Rubber Brayer, there's one 4" Hard Rubber Brayer, and the last is a 6" Soft Rubber Brayer. There are several other sizes available, but I like the control I have with these, while being able to cover a block quite quickly. I use the smaller ones mostly for smaller projects or details.
Right around when I upgraded my gouges, I decided to buy a Speedball Baren for Block Printing. I'd been using my hands exclusively for a year (that old wooden spoon trick never did much for me) and wanted to be able to apply firmer, but still even pressure. I bought the simple Speedball baren, and it has definitely helped. I don't know why I waited a year!
This is the item that took the longest to find something that really worked for me. I tried many brands and types, with different results. Ultimately, I've come to love pretty much everything from Legion Paper. I use their 100% cotton Stonehenge line for most prints, but I'm also in love with natural Nideggen, which is intended for bookmaking and has the most beautiful texture. Along with ink, I think paper can be one of the biggest variations between artists. It really depends on an individual's preferences, but what I love about Legion Paper is that they will work with you to find your perfect match.
That said, Speedball is emerging as a paper powerhouse themselves, so make sure you check out their Arnheim 1618 paper line.
Full disclosure, I’m the opposite of a brush snob. I once purchased a bundle of ten used brushes at an antique shop for $1 and fell in love with them. I typically use palette knives for many of my acrylic works, but my go-to brushes tend to be the Utrecht Manglon Synthetic Brushes. They’re reasonably priced, are comfortable to use and work well, hold up to a fair bit of abuse, and generally last quite a while.
I love Golden’s acrylic paints. Full stop. Period. Mic drop. Enough said.
Except, of course, I’ll say more. I use the heavy body line most often, as it’s buttery smooth and rich in pigment. The colors are beautiful and they lend themselves well to my heavy paint swipes. They’re beautiful and dry quite quickly. There’s a nice starter kit you can purchase to try them out.
But as much as I love the heavy body line, I also love the slow-drying OPEN line for landscapes, when I want to manipulate the paint longer. They also have a softer texture.
And, finally, the fluid line has its place in my work and I do enjoy the nice and easy flow for some aspects of projects.
Clearly there are a number of options just within one brand, so be sure to check out these, but also try out others. Walk into an art store (with coupons, obviously) and select a few different brands and types to try. Don’t commit and buy all your favorite colors until you’re positive this is the paint you love.