Styrofoam Plate Prints

In this printmaking project, little artists carve designs into the back of Styrofoam plates to create their own relief prints.


  • Flat styrofoam plates or trays
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Cardstock or other heavy white paper
  • Paint – I prefer craft paint for this project but tempera will also work
  • Cotton Balls or Paint Brushes
img_2985-2img_2985-1These expressive face designs were created by artists ages 3 – 5 years old.
img_2985-3These textural “planetary” designs were created by artists ages 18 months – 2 years old.


  1. Begin by giving each little artist a Styrofoam plate and a sharpened pencil. Make sure that the backside of the plate is facing up.
  2. Show your little artist how to carve into the back of the plate with the sharpened pencil. The smallest children (18 months – 2 year olds) can scrape the plate in wild lines, drag the pencil over the plate to make new textures, and poke holes through the plate. More mature pre-schoolers (3 – 5 year olds) can carve pictures. When I led this project at my son’s school, we made faces in the older classrooms, remembering to draw eyes, noses, and mouths.
  3. Now it is time to print! Help your little artist paint the back of the plate. Chose one color of paint and cover the entire area you want to print.
  4. After the back of the plate is covered in paint, turn it over and press the carved and painted side onto the white paper. While you are pressing the plate onto the paper, ask your little artist to help you rub the plate to make sure all areas of the print are in contact with the paper.
  5. Now simply pull the plate away from the paper and reveal your relief print!



  • It may take a few tries to find the right amount of paint for printing. You need enough paint to cover the entire surface, try lightly covering the plate with paint on a cotton ball. Too much paint with fill in the areas of carving and create a print that is uneven.
  • You can use the same carved plate to print over and over again. Wash the paint off and print the same design in many colors.
  • I used two different sizes of plates, the small dessert plates, and the full size dinner plates. You can also use Styrofoam trays to create larger, rectangular prints.



colorsBefore or after your plate printing project, read the book Andy Warhol’s Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin together with your little artist.

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