Intro: Laser Cut Printing Plates
If you've got access to a laser cutter you can easily cut out plates to use for printing with ink, like in the olden days!
This technique works best for simple/bold designs, and not as well for intricate/complex designs.
Of course you could etch your printing plate with the laser, but that takes a lot of time, and this cutting technique is fast. That's the main benefit of this technique.
Step 1: Laser Cut Your Pieces
Once you've got a digital file and are ready to cut it, use a laser cutter to cut out the pieces. I used 3mm Baltic Birch plywood, which cuts really well, and is super-cheap at less that $2 for a 12"x12" piece. Make sure you save the parts you cut and the piece that's left after you cut, as we'll be using that to line up the pieces.
(You don't have to reverse your design, but I always due as a matter of habit, since I've been doing printing of various types for so long.)
Step 2: Assemble the Pieces
Once you have the pieces, and a nice flat piece to glue them down to, use the cut-out-from piece from the previous step as a spacing guide when gluing down the pieces. If you don't go too crazy with the glue, you can leave the guide in place while the glue dries.
Oh, I also sanded the pieces quite a bit using some fine sandpaper. You may not need to do this, since we'll be sealing the wood next.
Step 3: Seal the Piece
The first time I tried this technique my prints turned out terrible! A local print maker gave me a tip... seal the wood! I ended up sealing this plate with some polyurethane coating. It's nice and smooth and shiny, so it shouldn't absorb any ink when printing.
Step 4: Print!
You'll need some ink, and a brayer (the roller device used to apply the ink) and some paper. You can get printing inks from your local art supply store or your favorite online e-tailer. I use a mirror to roll the ink onto, as it's a nice smooth and clean surface that is easy to clean up. Once you've got ink on the brayer, roll it onto the plate, and then press the paper onto the wet ink. Rub it good, either with your hands, or something flat. (The print maker I know actually uses a wooden spoon.) Better paper will result in better prints. I don't get the super-fancy printing paper, but drawing paper from an art supply store will work much better than paper you take from the copier at work.
Step 5: Enjoy Your Print
Make as many prints as you need and revel in their glory! Make some for your friends, give them away, put them on the wall. You're a print maker now!