Creative Challenge for Kids: Make an engraving!

A mixed media print in blue, green and brown on a sheet of white paper.
Photo by Bryony HusseyCredit

The challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to make your own engraving!

An engraving is a print that is made by scratching a design into a hard surface, usually metal. But, for this activity we’re going to use a plastic milk carton instead. Watch the video and then try it out yourself. You'll find all the materials and instructions listed below. This activity is for children (most suitable for ages 5 and up).

Watch the video!

Materials and instructions

You will need:

  • Some interesting objects: try finding a natural object (like a flower or seaweed) and a man-made object (like a plastic onion net)
  • Two sheets of paper
  • A pencil
  • Plastic milk carton (empty and clean!)
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • A cork from a bottle
  • Tape
  • A big spoon
  • Paint or lino ink 
  • Cotton buds or a paint brush to apply ink
  • A cloth or a piece of tissue


  1. Arrange your objects and draw a quick sketch of them.
  2. Ask an adult for some help with the next bit! Cut open a plastic milk carton, and cut out a big rectangle of plastic.
  3. Place the plastic rectangle over your sketch and tape both to the table.
  4. Ask an adult for help again to make an engraving tool by sticking a big sewing needle into a cork.
  5. Use this tool to scratch into the plastic, tracing over the lines of your drawing.
  6. Apply ink or paint to the scratched lines, making sure they are all filled with colour.
  7. Clean the ink off the smooth areas, so it's just left in the scratched lines.
  8. Place a sheet of paper on top of the inked plastic, and use the back of a spoon to rub the page in circular motions.
  9. Lift the paper to reveal your print!
  10. If you like, you can draw some extra lines or make rubbings from a textured material to add patterns.
  11. Finished!

Inspired by...

Monochrome etching of four tiny plants growing in a mound of dirt, each covered with an upturned glass jar.
Fiona Kelly, Future Forests, 2017/2018. © Fiona Kelly. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

This is a type of print called an etching, and it was made by Irish artist Fiona Kelly. Like in the Creative Challenge activity above, this print includes things from the natural world as well as man-made objects. Four tiny plants are shown growing underneath glass jars on a big pile of muck and stones. The artist is interested in the ways humans affect the environment and nature.

What emotions does this picture make you feel? Do you think it is hopeful, or sad?


This activity was devised by artist Bryony Hussey for the National Gallery of Ireland.

About our Gallery at Home videos:

Inspired by works in our collection and exhibitions, our creative activities encourage families to work together to create their own artworks. They are specially produced videos for babies, older children and for those who require sensory input. You can find all the workshops in this series here. Enjoy!

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