DIY printed high-contrast cards for babies

printing process and final product high-contrast cards for babies

I recently worked on a printmaking project where I made a set of 15 high-contrast cards for babies. After finding out I was pregnant in August 2023, I wanted to make something special and handmade for my little one. I ended up making more than one set of cards and gave them away as gifts to my pregnant friends.

I hope that this post inspires you to create your own set of handmade high-contrast cards for the babies in your life!

What are high-contrast cards for babies? #

Babies are born without fully developed vision. A newborn can see a distance of about 12 inches, which is enough for them to find the dark nipple of the breast and the pupil of their mother’s eyes. For the first three months of their lives, their eyes are able to more easily focus on objects and imagery with similar high contrast.

High contrast imagery helps babies develop their eye muscles, train their vision, and help them practice visual tracking.

I first learned about introducing high-contrast imagery to babies in the book The Montessori Baby, where the authors suggest hanging a black and white mobile above your baby as an enrichment activity. The high-contrast cards are an alternative to the mobile.

Photos of real babies looking at the printed high-contrast cards #

Here are some photos of real babies looking at the cards I made!

collage of babies staring at the cards I made

The process #

  1. Brainstorm design patterns
  2. Gather materials
  3. Construct your collagraph
  4. Print!
  5. Cut and assemble
  6. Laminate (optional)

I used two different printmaking processes to create each set of 15 high-contrast cards, (1) collagraphy, which is a printmaking process in which materials are glued to a surface, inked, and run through a printing press, and (2) monoprinting, where materials such as leaves are placed onto an inked surface and run through a printing press. The monoprinting method made cards with a mostly black background and the collagraphy results were inverted.

two printed high-contrast cards laying next to each other
Collagraph printed card on the left, monoprint on the right

Step 1: Brainstorm design patterns #

I always like to start with a notebook and pen when I’m working on a new project. For this project, it is best to keep the designs clean and simple, since babies will be able to focus more easily on geometric shapes. I opted for hearts, stars, triangles, and crescent shapes in my designs, alongside some squiggly patterns made with yarn. You may want to go on a nature walk or a trip to the recycling bin to gather materials and inspiration. Leaves, plants, and flowers are always a great place to start.

notebook with pattern designs in orange marker

Step 2: Gather materials #

I had access to a full printing press for this project, but you could easily replicate this setup at home and make your prints without a press using a method like the one demonstrated in this video.

Below is a list of all the materials you will need.

Materials #

Step 3: Construct your collagraph #

collage with two images showing collograph using cardboard
On the left is a sample 4 x 6 collograph made with cardboard. On the right is my collagraph plate after it had already been inked with black printing ink.

First you’ll need to decide what size cards you’ll be making. I ended up making cards measuring 4 inches x 6 inches, so I measured out several 4” x 6” rectangles on my large cardboard surface.

Then, you can begin to cut out your designs and assemble them onto your rigid surface. When you have a design you like, glue it down.

Once all of the glue is dry, you can seal the entire surface of your collagraph using a layer of gesso, Mod Podge, or any other glue or sealant that you have on hand. This sealing step makes the collagraph more sturdy and able to handle multiple rounds of printing and cleaning. Add more layers of sealant to your liking.

Step 4: Print! #

collage with three photos showing the collagraph printing process using a printing press

inked plate with leaves, ribbons, and textures ready to be printed

Make sure you have a clean and clear surface to work on.

Start by rolling black ink onto to your collograph, leaving ink off of the parts that you don’t want to print. If you accidentally get ink on something you don’t want to print, use a damp paper towel to wipe it off. This is the beauty of adding the sealant to the collagraph.

Then, place your white printing paper over the top of your inked collograph and run both through the printing press. If you don’t have access to a printing press for your project, you can do it by hand using a method like the one demonstrated in this video.

Let your prints lay flat for 24 hours while the ink dries.

collage with three images showing an inked plate with five designs (leaves, polka dots, ribbons, and other textures) before and after printing
You can also print by inking a surface directly, laying materials (such as leaves) on top, placing your printing paper over the top, and rolling it through the press. This is the traditional monoprinting method.

Step 5: Cut and assemble #

collage with two images showing the printed cards before and after being cut to size

Once all of your prints have been made and the ink is completely dry, all that is left to do is cut them to size. Tie them up in a nice ribbon if you’re giving them as a gift!

Step 6: Laminate (optional) #

I decided to get my cards laminated at FedEx because I noticed that the ink was transferring to my fingers. This step is totally optional but it does give the cards a professional look and feel, and you know they’ll last for more than one baby!

purple background with text that says "DIY printed high-contrast cards for babies" and an image of the final product - for Pinterest

collagraph and print in the studio

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