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What Is A Printing Baren?

Printmaking barens are a vital part of the traditional printmaking process. The traditional printing baren is a circular disk made of bamboo and is used to manually push ink onto paper from an inked woodblock. It produces superior results compared to a roller, with finer details and smoother coverage. Printmakers often customise their own barens, adjusting the shape and weight for a personally tailored experience. Printmaking barens require no powered tools, just arm strength and finesse!

Printing barens are used for printing lino or woodblock prints, they originate from Japan and have become used across the world as cheap alternative to a printing press.

What can I use instead of a baren?

If you don’t have a traditional baren, which is a tool specifically designed for printmaking, there are several everyday items you can use as substitutes to achieve similar results. Some alternatives include:

  • A wooden spoon: The back of a wooden spoon can be used to rub over the back of the paper, transferring the ink from the block to the paper. It’s a simple but effective method.
  • A glass jar or bottle: A clean, smooth glass jar or bottle can work as a makeshift baren. Rolling it over the paper with even pressure can help transfer the ink.
  • A rolling pin: Similar to a glass jar, a rolling pin can be rolled across the paper to press it into the inked surface below.
  • A door knob: If it’s removed from the door and used carefully, a door knob can serve as a makeshift baren, offering a smooth surface to apply pressure.

How is a baren used in printing?

Using a baren in printing involves a few steps:

  1. Inking the block: First, the print block (which could be wood, lino, or another material) is evenly inked using a roller.
  2. Placing the paper: The paper is then carefully laid over the inked block. It’s important to ensure that the paper does not move during the printing process to avoid smudging.
  3. Using the baren: The artist then uses the baren to apply pressure over the back of the paper. This is done by holding the baren with a flat hand and moving it in a circular motion, applying a firm but even pressure throughout. The goal is to ensure that all areas of the paper come into contact with the inked block, especially the finer details.
  4. Revealing the print: Once the entire surface has been covered, the paper is carefully lifted away from the block, revealing the printed image.

The baren is effective because it allows for controlled, even pressure, which is essential for transferring ink to paper effectively. Its simplicity and efficiency make it a favoured tool among printmakers, especially those working without access to a press.