View Full Version : First print

02-14-2005, 09:42 PM

I'm brand new to WetCanvas, printmaking, and I suppose you could also say art (I've only been sketching and doing pen and ink for the past few months after not doing any art for over 20 years).

I have two neophyte-type questions and I would also be interested in C&C of the following woodcut print (it's 5 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches on Hosho paper using Speedball water-based ink).


I hope I posted that right.

First question, how do you clean your woodblocks off after a printing session? I did use a rag with water even though I was a bit hesitant to use water on the pine. The darn ink just got so sticky I had to clean it off some way--it was so sticky it tore off parts of the last print I did in the session (pity, that print was turning out so nicely otherwise). I'm looking forward to the Graphic Chemical water-based ink I ordered today.

Second, can you carve another image on the back of the woodblock or will that somehow jeopardize the first image?

I'm sure I'll think of more questions, but for the time being I really appreciate your comments.


Diane Cutter
02-15-2005, 07:29 AM
...First question, how do you clean your woodblocks off after a printing session? ............Second, can you carve another image on the back of the woodblock or will that somehow jeopardize the first image?...
Welcome to the Printmaking Forum and to WetCanvas, also... We are probably the smallest forum here, but there are a lot of dedicated printmakers here.

It's obvious you've got drawing skills... This is a very sweet woodcut that reads very well. The girl is so simple but there is a lot of expression here. You've also pulled a very nice print, not an easy thing for people getting into printmaking.

I don't work with water-based inks, but if you carefully spray small amounts of water and sop up immediately, minimizing the amount of water getting on your wood, that should clean it up. My fear would be getting the wood wet, causing it to warp. It sounds like the tearing paper is from the ink getting too dry while printing.

If your wood is thick, I would think cutting on the reverse side would be okay. Personally, I'd be afraid of the wood possibly breaking in two if both sides have been carved, because normally wood pieces are not that thick and it might harm the integrity of the wood.

Opinions from others out there???

Again, Cheryl, welcome to our little corner of the WC world. We're happy to have you here!


02-15-2005, 09:53 AM
Very nice print! Clean image- No inking mistakes- I am impressed! That was that hardest thing for me to figure out...

The sticky ink was probably a result of it drying on the block... I haven't done too many woodcuts, I ususally stick to linoleum, but I cleaned them in pretty much the same manner that you did, kind of light on the water just to make sure that they didnt warp.

You might want to try some better inks- The speedball waterbased inks are notoriously difficult to work with, and I found that they tended to dry way faster than I wanted them to- Resulting in a MESS. Give Daniel Smith or Graphic Chemical a shot, they both make great waterbased block printing inks.

As for using both sides of the block, if it is thick enough, it CAN be done, But I would be kind of nervous doing it. You risk destroying not one but TWO blocks with one little mistake, and with that all of your hard work goes down the drain. Personally, I would just use a new block... But, that is me....

Hope to see more posts in the future! Glad to see another artist 'awakening'- I did the same thing, hadn't picked up a pencil in a few years... Then got back at it!


02-15-2005, 01:41 PM
Thanks so much for the encouragement Diane and Andrew! :wave:

Andrew, I've ordered some water-based ink from Graphic Chemical, so hopefully that will help.

As for the ink getting too dry, I suppose I should have not been too stingy with it! Oh, well--next time I'll put on another line of ink. I'm just not always sure when the ink is getting too dry! I guess I'll learn.

The pine block is 3/4 inch thick. This morning I decided that I thought it might be stable enough to take some carving on the other side. I put a layer of felt between the carved side and the bench hook to protect it--it seemed to work. I only had one block of that size. Problem is--I have TWO daughters (ages 7 and 10) to make a little print series of. The above print is of my 7-year old when she was 4 and my 10-year old was wondering when I would do hers. Well, I decided the risk was worth it and I was right--she was so excited and thrilled! I figured I could always do another one of the first if it got messed up! Well, so far, so good--we'll see how the new one prints out.

I haven't used linoleum. My husband does quite a bit of woodworking so he has quite a stash of odd pieces of furniture-grade pine, cherry, and maple (I don't think I'll try the maple though--too hard!). I figured the pieces could be chopped up by me or go in his workshop's woodstove!! Since I'm cheap (AND I homeschool the kids (read no second income) AND college is looming closer every year!) I opted for the never-ending supply of wood!

I really enjoy and appreciate this forum--the amount of support and information is wonderful! I've learned so much just from reading the archives. I know people recommend the "Complete Printmaker," I was wondering if there was a good book just on relief printing that people liked (maybe I should make a new post about that?)?

Thanks again!

02-15-2005, 05:44 PM
Sounds like you have a ready source of wood, So use it!!! I use linoleum becuase it is less expensive than going out and buying nice wood, and I find it easier. Wood does have a 'feel' to it that lino can't match, especially when you incorporate the wood grain into the print.

Try using cherry- I know that it is rather popular for woodcuts, and expensive as well... Maple is used in a lot of wood engraving, since it is SO hard, but they usually use the end grain for that...

You homeschool your kids? Neat. I was homeschooled for a portion of my education, too- We moved around a lot and it made things easier. Quite a job, though!

As for books, The Complete Printmaker is #1, for sure. I also have & reccomend these-

1) The encyclopedia of printmaking techniques, by Judy Martin. Lots of pictures, covers all sorts of printmaking

2)The complete guide to prints and printmaking- Edited by John Dawson, this is my #2 pick. It is a british book, I picked it up on E-Bay I think

3) Printmaking today, by Jules Heller. This is a college textbook, and I think that it is out of print. I found a copy on E-Bay.



02-15-2005, 07:23 PM
About the cherry--are there any techniques or issues that I should be aware of before starting with it? I'm a bit confused about it because, on the one hand, a friend of my who is a rather well-respected artist says that cherry is really hard and therefore difficult to work with, and on the other hand, it is the favored wood for traditional Japanese woodblocks. My husband also refers to it as a "softer" wood and thought it might be easier to work with than pine because pine tends to tear unless your tools are really sharp. I guess it's another one of those try-it-and-you'll-find-out things.

I know using the wood grain in prints can be pretty neat, I'm just not sure exactly how to do it and (to be honest) I'm afraid that I could screw up all my carving work by adding it to a print.

I checked out the "Complete Printmaker" from the library (we have an awesome library system here) and it was very good. I was just looking for a good reference book that dealt solely with relief/block printing.

Andrew, you were homeschooled for a time?! It's always interesting to find adults who were homeschooled. It's a lot of work and sometimes I'm not sure what the kids will say when they are adults--what they liked and what they didn't. Although we have a great library system, our school system here is quite poor--it gets failing marks every year. So it's either homeschool or private school! Like I said before--I'm cheap! So homeschool it is for now!


Ari Sutton
02-16-2005, 07:23 AM

Welcome to the forum. I like you print very much. I do the majority of my prints in woodcut. I usually put water directly on the wood to clean it, when I am working with water based ink. If you dry it right away, the block shouldn't warp. The wood grain shows much better with the oil based inks. I do prefer pine for my woodcuts. I find I get a better range of implied values in the piece because of the ability to vary the size of each cut. I think it is the softness of the pine.

Hope this is helpful.


02-16-2005, 08:56 AM
Ari, Andrew, and Diane,

I really appreciate all of your feedback--especially since I admire the art that all 3 of you create!

It looks like I'll clean the blocks with water worry-free! I hadn't really worried about warpage since I was using a small amount of water on rather thick blocks. But I had worried about raising the grain (which really wouldn't be a big problem! It would add charm!) and cracking (which could be a problem).

It looks like one of these days I should try out some oil-based ink. I didn't realize, Ari, that they can show up the grain better than water-based stuff. I had been hesitant to try oils for several reasons--1) I'm still a messy printer, 2) the septic tank, 3) the kids, and 4) my asthma. I guess it's time to look into the validity of these concerns!

Thank you again! :wave:

02-16-2005, 09:33 AM
Actually, you probably won't find oilbased inks any nastier to work with than waterbased, although they can be a bit more difficult to clean up. When people hear oilbased, they often think petroleum based, which is not usually the case, usually it is a vegetable or plant oil (linseed, sunflower, etc). The only time that you get into nasty chemicals is when you go to clean up, and this can be avoided, too- Use safe cleaners! I use a stuff called Soy-Solv, which is soybean oil based, and is non toxic.

As for the cherry, it IS harder than pine, which will require more muscle to carve, BUT it will also hold a finer edge... If I recall, the biggest advantage of cherry is that the grain is even, the light stuff and the dark stuff are about the same hardness, unlike some other woods where the dark is harder... I have never personally used it, however...


02-16-2005, 02:02 PM

Where do you buy Soy-Solv? I have never heard of it. Does it smell too much? I have to be a bit careful because some fumes will set off my asthma. It sure would be nice to have some options for different inks though.

Thanks for the information about the Soy-Solv as well as the cherry. I put in my "request" for some cherry blocks with my husband, so I should get some by this weekend. I also requested some little blocks sized 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" to try my hand at some little ATC--we'll see what happens (about my ability to make decent ATC, not my husband getting me some little blocks!). He seems quite pleased to make me any sized block I want--he even sands them for me! I think he just likes any excuse to go out to his workshop and make sawdust!!


02-16-2005, 04:07 PM
Cheryl, I'm impressed. You have pulled a very nice print, and your cutting is done very well. Welcome to WC! and the printmaking forum. I hope to be seeing more of your work.

02-16-2005, 06:01 PM
I got the Soy-Solve from Daniel smith last time I ordered inks, It smells like soybeans- Actually makes me hungry!

Looking forward to seeing your ATC's- I have a number of linocut ATC's, we'll have to trade!


02-16-2005, 08:58 PM
first let me add my welcome to the forum, on cutting on both sides of a block ,if its over a half inch thick you should be fine as long as you are cutting on a good flat surface .splitting and breaking generally semms to occur when there is a slight imperfection in the surface of your support. I may be the king of cheap if it has two sides that can be carved Iwill try it , my first relief prints since high school were on some pieces of linoleum baseboard I scavenged from some where

your print I think is very good .it conveys innocence and charm

02-17-2005, 08:35 AM
Thanks for the encouraging words, Charissa (Sassybird) and Zardoz! It means a lot to me! I've always loved woodcut prints and the posters of the late 1800s-early 1900s, so I was enamored of the idea of doing prints myself. It wasn't until a few weeks back that I found out that I didn't need a press to do relief prints! (Call me ignorant! I thought I needed a press!) Regardless to say, everyone's nice words are making me feel more confident that I am not "wasting my time." Although I'd still probably do woodcuts even if I was wasting my time--I just LOVE those little curls of wood!!!

Andrew--I love your ATCs! If I come up with anything interesting, I'd love to do a trade!


02-19-2005, 06:07 PM
that's a lovely print.

I've never done woodblock - lino, drypoint, etching, aquatint and collagraph only but not woodblock or lithographs.

This makes me want to have a go. :cat: What sort of press do you use? or do you hand print it?

To work on the end grain you need specialist tools don't you?

I must get into the workshop and do some printing :cat:

02-19-2005, 07:35 PM

I printed it by hand with the back of an old wooden spoon. I used wood carving tools so that I could use a plank of pine (I don't have any wood engraving tools which would be necessary for carving the end grain----yet!). I'm a real newbie to this all, but from what I understand, you can use wood carving tools to carve wood OR linoleum but linoleum tools often don't work on wood.


02-21-2005, 06:33 PM
that's right - and I've only got lino cutting tools.

Wood engraving can be amazing though and it would be interesting to try.