Block Printing Travel Essentials – a DIY Travel Supplies Kit

Block Printing Travel Essentials – a DIY Travel Supplies Kit

sketches for block printing by 3 Dottes Penguins Ali Baecker
3 Dotted Pengiuns original block print
a child printing with a block

I love to bring my block printing gear on vacation, for a weekend trip, visiting family, or when on the road. I have spent great evenings carving and printing while chatting with my husband or spent a fun morning being creative with little printmaker (including impromptu printmaking sessions for her).

As long as I feel that I will actually have time and the space to carve some blocks I will bring my block printing gear (which does not mean that I will always end up using it).

At times I even made huge progress in my block printing skills, for I example I made my first ever (super simple) square repeating block while on vacation in Italy, which was a huge breakthrough for me at that time.  Being in different surroundings, away from daily work, with limited gear at hand and perhaps very limited time, can often help stop procrastination and just get going without overthinking. 

And one of the most fun things – that I never saw coming when I started bringing my travel gear on vacation: I often remember how the location looked like when carving a particular block. 

There are a few things to consider to make your block printing travel gear and your travel a success. Let’s dive in:

What to Pack

DIY block printing travel kit

The bag pictured above (screen-printed with my design) has the perfect size (and sturdiness) for my small travel kit. 

What to pack you might ask. All I can say is: it depends. It depends on your personal preferences, space in your luggage, and duration of your trip to just name a few.

Depending on the length of my travel, my mode of transportation, and – I guess – my enthusiasm upfront, I will bring variations of my gear. But what I will always strive for is only to bring the most essential block printing supplies to keep my block printing travel kit as small and light as possible. This means that I will cut down on my carving tools (I mostly use my entry-level Speedball carving tool when traveling), travel with a small number of ink pads, etc. 

Over time I have found what works for me – here is Here is what my DIY block printing travel tool kit looks like (it might look different for you): 

  • my entry level lino carving tool
  • a sheet of my favorite soft carving material
  • a small selection of inkpads
  • some precut notecards-style paper
  • a craft knife (or even a Swiss Army knife)

I might bring a selection of other supplies as well, such as

  • a small cutting mat (A5 or A4)
  • printer paper
  • transparent paper
  • a small ruler
  • pencil & eraser
  • a small sketchbook
  • tape 
  • acrylic blocks
  • re-inkers

How to Pack

I will normally have two items when I am traveling:

  • a paper (or plastic) sleeve containing my paper items, my carving block, my cutting mat – that way everything stays flat and compact 
  • a pouch or kitchen storage box to keep the rest of my gear (ink, carving tools, …)
block printing travel essentials

If I travel by plane, bring several more delicate tools or know that my luggage will be treated a bit more roughly, I will pack my block printing tools in a kitchen storage box.  This will use a little extra space but at the same time protect my tools additionally, especially from external pressure and rough luggage handling.

If I bring the bare minimum,  go by car or have all my tools on me when using public transport, I will use a pouch. This makes my travel kit extra compact but will not provide any extra protection

Please note, I have never brought my DIY travel kit as carry-on luggage on an airplane. I have always transported it as checked luggage. If you plan to do so, please check with your airline upfront. 

How to Decide if You Should Bring Your DIY Travel Kit

At times, I brought my travel kit on vacation and created almost every evening, but at other times, I brought it along and did not touch it a single time. So what are factors might help you decide if you should bring your travel kit:

Signs that you might want to bring your creative travel kit:

  • You are looking forward to creating when traveling.
  • You have space in your luggage for your block printing travel kit.
  • You have a flexible schedule and can make room to create.
  • You are staying in one location for a longer period of time.
  • You will have room to create in the place you are staying. 
  • You are traveling with other creatives.

Signs that you might want to leave your creative travel kit at home:

  • The thought of being creative when traveling already stresses you out.
  • You have super limited packing space.
  • You will have a full packed schedule, perhaps even late into the evenings.
  • You are frequently switching locations (staying overnight in different locations frequently).
  • You will not have space to create in the place(s) you are staying.
  • You are traveling with a group of people with a lot of social (non-creative) activity.

If you decide not to bring your travel kit but still want to make the most of your trip creatively, you can 

  • take photos of anything that inspires you (and organize them in a separate folder so that you can access them easily once home)
  • take (small) memorabilia home (these can be as simple as museum tickets or bus tickets)
  • bring a sketch book to note down any ideas or get sketching on the road. 

Your Vacation "Studio-Space"

block printing on the road - travel supplies
block printing on the road - travel supplies
block printing on the road - travel supplies

It can be so much fun to get creative while on the road. Be aware that your makeshift mobile vacation studio space most likely will not be the perfect space – and that’s fine. That’s part of traveling and creating while on the road. I always love to figure out the best place for my vacation studio space.

Light can be tricky. I have found that in many rental apartments or hotels, lighting is either not very strong or comes from straight above the table. Pick your carving and printing spot so that you have the best light possible and the least amount of shadows coming from your own body.

Your carving and printing area can be anything. In a hotel or small space, it might be the small desk in the corner. In a rental apartment, I normally hijack the kitchen or dining room table for a creative session in the evening or during the day. Perhaps your vacation space has a balcony or a communal area, or you could get creative outside, such as going to a park with a picnic table and get creative there. I make sure to clear away everything in-between printmaking sessions so that the space does not become a full-time studio but remains a living space.  

Leave no traces. Be mindful of other people’s properties and treat and protect their space as you would do with your own. Make sure to clean any ink traces right away. I love to bring a cutting mat and a few sheets of printer paper to protect the table I am carving on. If you don’t have a cutting mat or printer paper, you might be able to use a kitchen cutting board or a newspaper/catalog to protect the makeshift carving and printing area. 

But most importantly: Enjoy the process and give yourself permission to create (or not to create)!

Get the complete guide to all my block printing resources

Wondering which carving tools are my favorite? What do I use to attach my carved blocks to acrylic blocks? Which soft carving material do I use? You can find all the answers in my 10+ page guide to “My Favorite Block Printing Supplies” (3rd edition!). It’s available in English and German; just choose your preferred language in the drop-down below. 

3 dotted penguins block printing supplies free mini guide

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Where to get your block printing supplies

Are you looking for a place to buy block printing supplies? One of my favorite suppliers is Jackson’s Art – they have a lot of tools in stock (and typically restock quickly), and they send internationally to many locations. 

* this is an affiliate link, which might receive a compensation at no extra cost for you. 

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block printing travel essentials
DIY block printing travel kit

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