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Woodblock Printing Guide

By Edited Jul 9, 2014 0 0

Making a woodblock print greeting card

Wood block printing and chisels

This is a simple woodblock print which anyone can make. Printing is the easy part but if you start with a simple image you will have more success and your new found confidence will allow you to progress onto more difficult work. Start with a small block of wood with a straight, flat, or blank smooth surface. Using a pencil draw the image you propose to make. Once you have the general outline you then trim away the surplus material from the block. Avoid trying to carve letters and intricate shapes because you will have to imagine them in reverse, or mirror effect, and it is so easy to make a mistake after hours of carving. 

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Easy woodblock printing Christmas card

I am using this Christmas card image of the holly which I carved for this years Christmas post. Other techniques rather than woodblock printing could have been used such as Collograph and Dry Point Etching but the easiest form of printmaking is using the woodblock. After you have trimmed away all the surplus material you will need to take care as you cut towards the outline itself.  

Woodblock printmaking

The thing to remember when cutting is that the material that you cut from the surface will not appear on the image. Some artists will use a small drill bit and drill several tiny holes in the wood and these might appear on the image as raindrops or snowflakes. Whatever you decide to do will have some effect on the image. Paint is applied to the remaining surface of the wood and then the block is upturned onto the paper to create the image. A slip of the knife across the surface will leave a line through the block and this line will appear on the image when the block is inked.

Greeting card simple woodblock

Woodblock Christmas card prints
This holly Christmas card is from a simple woodblock, and if I wished to do so, I could use this image/block again next year and for many winters to come. If you want to do more elaborate woodblock printing you can carve features into a block, print this image, carve new details and layer the prints and the colors too. You need to ensure that the print (image paper) stays in the one position and that you have a framework, or jig in place to ensure that the woodblock in placed in the same position for every rendition. What you do is only print the new carved area each time. The finished image, of course, can never be reprinted, as the block with so much material removed can never return to its starting image. This type of woodblock printing is called a reduction process. 

Woodblock printing tools for kids

The great thing about woodblock printing is that the younger children can make prints too, albeit with different, safer materials. Obviously, they will not be using chisels or wood but a great substitute is a large potato and a small paring knife. Cut a large potato in half and an image can then easily be created on the flat surface with a blunt knife or teaspoon. Some very good images can be made such as stars, squares and triangles for younger kids. When the paint is added and the potato stamp is turned over onto the paper the images produced are rather excellent. A good tip is to let the cut potato surface dry out before applying the paint and you can speed this process by pressing the potato onto newspaper or blotting paper.

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