Yr 3, Romans – printing – Europe

What is printing?

Printmaking can be both simple or complex. The essence of the printmaking process is ‘repetition’ , you can make many copies from one block or plate. A printmaker will design their artwork and then transfer it onto a flat surface (block or plate), ink is then applied followed by transferring the design onto paper or fabric.

Artwork, Romans – Mosaics offer a vivid picture of ancient Roman life, from dramatic athletic contests to tender portraits of local wildlife, mosaics provide us with a window to look at who the Romans were, and what they valued.

Pottery was also an important part of daily living in ancient Rome, there were three main types of pots, these were used for food for the table, cooking and carrying. To decorate their pottery the Romans would make relief patterns and then would make them shiny and beautiful by glazing them with lead. 

Canterbury Roman Museum
How does the design stand out from the background?
How old is the bowl?
What would the bowl feel like to touch?
How do you think the Romans made the bowl?
Roman bowl, British Museum
Roman bowl, British Museum
Central Gaulish samian vessel with ‘cut-glass’ decoration


Mosaic of a Lion Chasing a Bull, 400s–500s A.D., Roman, made in Syria. Stone tesserae, 32 × 59 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 75.AH.115

Paints & pigments – Roman artists and craft makers worked with a basic palette of colours, black which was made from the carbon created by burning brushwood or pine chips. Ocher was extracted from mines and served for yellow. Red was derived either from cinnabar, red ocher, or from heating white lead. Blue was made from mixing sand and copper, and then baking the mixture. The deepest shade of purple was by far the most precious color, as it was usually obtained from sea whelks.

1. Roman mosaics were meant to be walked on.

Paintings covered the interior walls of Roman villas, but weren’t practical for decorating floors. Enter mosaics: a durable and lavish way to spruce up a room and support foot traffic at the same time.

2. The Romans perfected mosaics as an art form.

The Greeks refined the art of figural mosaics by embedding pebbles in mortar. The Romans took the art form to the next level by using tesserae (cubes of stone, ceramic, or glass) to form intricate, colorful designs.

3. To get special colors, mosaic artists used glass and imported stones.

Mosaic artisans relied on local stones for the bulk of their work, but imported unusual colors for special highlights. When no stone would do, they turned to glass in bright colors like blue and green.

Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager (detail), late 100s A.D., Roman, made in Tunisia. Stone and glass tesserae, 38 3/4 × 63 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 73.AH.75

4. Mosaics tell us about ancient history.

Mosaics are significant not only as art, but as evidence of where and how people lived, worked, and thought. The locations and architectural settings of many mosaics have been recorded over the centuries by archaeologists, helping illuminate their cultural context. Getty.edu

The Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians is preserved almost intact on four papyrus scrolls, copied around 100 CE (Papyrus 131) British Library


  • monoprints
  • symmetrical
  • accurate
  • background
  • foreground
  • neutral
  • linear
  • register
  • inspiration
  • manipulate
Printmaking tools.
The process is still the same today!