Woodcut printing (or woodblock printing) is the oldest and most direct form of printmaking. A woodcut uses the same principle as rubber stamps, but instead of creating a relief effect in rubber, it is done by carving into wood. The raised areas with ink applied will create the image itself, while the low areas make up the white space of the image.
Making a woodcut looks like this:
Choose Your Wood and Prepare the SurfaceIt is important to take the time to find wood with no pockets, dents or bends as it will affect printing later on (unless you want that kind of look). Personally, I use 1/2in or 3/4in birch plywood to make my woodcuts.
Prepare the surface of the wood by sanding it with #220 sandpaper, and if you want to bring out the woodgrain texture, brush the surface with a wire brush (going with the grain). This opens up the grain and allows for some beautiful effects.
Draw the ImageDraw your image on the woodblock. It’s important to remember that the image will be reversed when printed, so you have to draw it backwards on the block!
Carve the WoodblockAfter the drawing is completed, the image itself is created by carving into the surface of the wood with knives, chisels, and gouges, removing the areas that will remain white or negative space. Any wood that isn’t carved out will pick up ink and become a part of the image.
Ink up the WoodblockA roller or brayer is used to evenly apply ink to the block surface. Since the block is carved, there are raised areas which will pick up ink, and lower areas that will not pick up ink (like a stamp).
Print the WoodblockA sheet of paper is placed on top of the inked block and is either rubbed with a spoon or baren to transfer the image or the inked block and paper are placed onto the bed of an etching press and pressure is applied evenly across the entire surface to create a printed image. (I print using a press.)
For images needing multiple colors, each individual color layer is hand drawn, carved into birch plywood, inked up and printed one by one to produce the final image. You can use one block per color or print multiple colors from one block by printing layer 1, cleaning the wood and carving more, printing layer 2, cleaning and carving etc.
Edition the Print
Once you feel good about the way the print is looking, it’s time to edition!
An edition is a set of prints that are consistently printed. The edition size can be small or large and is indicated at the bottom of the print as a fraction. The bottom numeral is the number of copies in that edition. The top numeral is the number of that particular copy.
For example, if you had an edition of 50, they would be numbered 1/50, 2/50, 3/50 and so on. After the edition is complete, the block will never ever be printed again!
Check out some of Hozro Printshop's woodcut prints below: