View Full Version : Woodcut Demo

04-04-2002, 02:30 AM
I thought I'd put together a woodcut step-by-step lesson. I'm hoping that some folks might like to try this method of printmaking. There just aren't enough of us! :D
I'm no expert, but I'll show you the way I do it and hopefully, it'll give you the basics. Printmaking is pretty flexible and there are a lot of different ways to do things -- experiment -- be free -- have fun...! :D


04-04-2002, 02:40 AM
Top row from left to right ;
Japanese knife -- Large C gouge -- Small C gouge -- Raked V gouge -- Fish-tailed straight chisel
Bottom; Swivel knife (made for leather working)

04-04-2002, 03:00 AM
Gouges and knives need to be kept sharp. Dull gouges get stuck and dull knives slip easily. Don't want anybody getting hurt!

To keep your tools in good working order, you'll need sharpening stones and sharpening oil. The large stone in the picture is coarse on one side and fine on the other. The small stone is called a slip stone. The shape makes it easy to sharpen the inside edge of gouges. Be sure and use the oil -- it 'floats' the little tiny particles of metal that come off in the sharpening process and keeps them from nicking the blade.

04-04-2002, 03:20 AM
Now that your tools are in good working order -- try 'em out! I like pine, but you can also use poplar, birch, pear and cherry. Cherry is most used by Japanese woodcutters in the Ukiyo-e tradition -- it works well for very fine lines and can make many, many prints. Here's some examples of this beautiful style;


These are all fine for carving woodcuts. Pine, poplar, and birch are available at any lumberyard. Pear and cherry are considered specialty wood and are hard to get in the US. I've read that pear is easy to come by in Europe. The best cherry still comes from Japan.

Make sure you try out all the tools and get the feel for them before actually attempting to make an image. Try long and short cuts, deep and shallow, straight and angled. You can also use nails, nuts, leather punch tools, etc. with a hammer to create patterns in the wood. Watch your fingers!

04-04-2002, 03:28 AM
Something else that I find very useful is wire brushes.

The large brush is a grill brush. If used with vigor, it will 'bring up' the grain in the wood. Make use of the grain when you can. It can add to the beauty of a woodcut print.

Tha small brush is something I found at the hardware store. I don't know what it's meant to be used for, but it's very stiff wire and works well to brush off the dust, shavings and little burrs left after carving.

04-04-2002, 03:38 AM
I'm gonna' get all high tech on ya' now. :D
This is a Dremel rotary tool. (lots of other brands too) It's not cheap, the bits are even less cheap, but it gets some nice effects. You probably know someone that has this on their toolbench. See if you can borrow it to try it out before you buy one. It's harder to control than the hand tools, but you can do some very cool things with it. I'll show you those later in the demo. ;)

04-04-2002, 03:53 AM
Here's some of the bits I use with the dremel. If you're buying bits, make sure that they for use with wood.

I now have a bunch of bits that I'll probably never use for anything, because I bought a 'set' of attachments and wound up with one piece I needed and a whole of stuff I can't use. :p

04-04-2002, 03:57 AM
...to be continued later today...

04-05-2002, 08:58 PM
Cool, Gisela. Now you need to get busy and get this in article shape for publishing:D :evil: :angel:

04-06-2002, 12:18 AM
Board wood often comes with 'mill marks' -- slight marks in the wood that you can't really see until you're tranfering your image to paper. So it's good to prepare your wood by sanding it's surface smooth.

04-06-2002, 12:26 AM
I also apply a wash of watered down India ink. This makes it easier for me to see the marks I make with the cutting tools.

04-06-2002, 12:30 AM
Next, I draw my image on the wood. I like using a dark colored pencil, India ink or permanant marker.

04-06-2002, 12:35 AM
Ok, the prep work is all done -- on to the fun stuff! :)

I just drew very basic shapes as a guide and only drew details in the bridge.
I used large and small C gouges to create the waterfall.

04-06-2002, 12:39 AM
Here's the first state of the block. Eveyrthing that I've cut so far will be the white of the paper in the finished print.

04-06-2002, 12:49 AM
In the foreground -- a piece of glass with tape-covered edges (for safety)
Left to right on the glass -- a Japanese student baren (for pressing the paper on the block), a brayer (for rolling out the ink), and a putty knife (for mixing the ink).

In the background is a can and some tubes of relief printing ink.

04-06-2002, 12:52 AM
The first color I'm using is a pale yellow,

If you're doing an edition, be sure to mix enough ink for the whole run. It can be hard to mix the exact color again.

04-06-2002, 12:57 AM
Use your brayer to roll the ink on the glass. The ink is pretty stiff right out of the can -- rolling it kind of warms it up and helps you to get a good consistancy. It'll make a sound a bit like pulling velcro (thanks Sassy) when it's just right.

04-06-2002, 01:00 AM
Use your brayer to apply the ink to the wood block.

04-06-2002, 01:05 AM
Postion the paper on the block and use the baren to rub the whole surface thoroughly. You can also use the back of a a flat wooden spoon (Japanese rice spoons work great) or whatever you may have around the house that you find works well.

You can carefully lift a corner to see how it's coming along.

Let's peek...;)

04-06-2002, 01:12 AM
I drilled holes in wooden clothspins and strung them on a heavy cord. I string it across my studio to hang the prints up to dry.

04-06-2002, 01:18 AM
I'm using the dremel tool next, since I need to make some smooth lines going against the grain.

Sorry -- had to remove this picture -- the file got corrupted. :(

04-06-2002, 01:22 AM
Here I'm using a different bit on the dremel to rough up the surface and leave some yellow places peeking though the next color that I'll print.

04-06-2002, 01:24 AM
I've finished cutting the second state of the block.
All the new cuts will show up as yellow in the finished print.

04-06-2002, 01:26 AM
Next I applied and printed green ink.

04-06-2002, 01:31 AM
I forgot to take a picture of the nest level of cuts. :( Basically I just roughed up the places where I wanted to keep the light green. This time I mixed a dark blue-green ink.

Here's the print in the third state.

04-06-2002, 01:33 AM
Here's a detail of what I've done so far.

04-06-2002, 01:41 AM
My last color is a dark purple. Here I've cut away everthing that I don't want to print in purple.

04-06-2002, 01:44 AM
I've added some ink extender to the last color to make it somewhat tranparent.

04-06-2002, 01:49 AM
Here's the block, inked and ready for the final phase of printing.

04-06-2002, 01:55 AM

Here's one of the finished prints. I did an edition of 12, plus a few that have only 1, 2, or 3 of the colors. (hate to waste any leftover ink, ya' know. :D

04-06-2002, 07:36 AM
Thanks Gisela for pointing me here. I didn't even know this forum existed. I'm done woodcutting / carving and wood burning for several years but up til now have been mostly self-taught. I even dabble abit in the printmaking. Probably spent alot more money on tools and materials that I thought I needed but now rarely use. Where were you some 10 yrs ago? :)

04-06-2002, 01:43 PM
This is a great demo, Gisela. Now, how much did your dremel cost with the hand extension? The one I used to have didn't have the extension, and it nearly made my hand numb after only 15 min or so.

04-06-2002, 03:04 PM
How do you make sure you line the paper up properly when you do a new layer of ink? I'm afraid I'd get it all messed up.

04-06-2002, 05:13 PM
Auntie -- I'm glad you found your way over here. I'd love to see some of your prints! :)

Sassy -- Thanks, Gal! I got my dremel set on sale at Home Depot for about $70. It came with the case, the hose thingie, and about 40 little do-dads. It works really well for putting a bevel on the edge of metal plates too. ;)

Strawberry -- I laid the wood on a counter and bent over to be at eye-level with the top of the block. Then I lined up the long edge of the paper with the long edge of the block and slowly laid the paper on the wood. A third hand would have come in really handy. This piece of wood is almost 2 inches thick and really heavy (it's 20 x 11 inches). If I had used plywood or a smaller, lighter block, I would have laid the paper down first and eyed it from above to lay the block down.

04-08-2002, 06:24 AM
great thread, Gisela. Thanks!


04-08-2002, 08:50 PM
Execellent demo Gisela.
Thank you :)

12-10-2002, 07:46 AM
Hi Gisela

What a wonderful demo! I've been planning to try some woodcuts for years and I think you've given me the imspiration to try it finally! Now all need is time :D
A question: I assume it doesn't matter what kind of wood one uses? But the variety of wood will make a difference in the finished print won't it? Some wood have more pronounced grain etc....even after sanding. Wondering if you take this into account when choosing a wood to use. I've done a lot of woodcarving so I have all the tools, except the Dremel...I gave it to a friend begfore I moved to the US :( Guess I'll have to add it to me Christmas list! Thanks again for the demo.


Tony Perrotta
12-11-2002, 03:55 PM
Hi Gisela, very good job on the Demo. Now if I could find the time, I would do a few.

regards Tony:clap:

03-13-2003, 10:24 PM
Thank you for your excellent demo. I'm doing my first project and it's REALLY helpful. What is the best kind of paper to use?

05-13-2003, 12:42 PM
I've carved rubber stamps not wood, and am into textiles rather than paper, but had a thought reading this cool thread...

Could you set up a corner guide for lining up subsequent layers? I visualize 1/2 of a deep picture frame so you get one 90o corner and the ajoining sides. To use, just push the woodcut flush into the corner before lowering it to the paper. If you do that every time, all the layers should line up.

Would that work in "real life"?

Oh, and thanks for adding something else to my "to do" list. Like I really need another interest. ha

05-30-2003, 12:09 PM
What a wonderful demo! Great inspiration, off to the wood closet :-)))))

06-25-2004, 09:22 PM
:clap: Thank you sooo much!

This demo is simple and straightforward. Often I find the complicated instructions for something I've never tried to be at the bottom of me forever NEVER trying it.

You've made it woodblock printing look VERY accessible to me at home!

I do a little relief printing with soft lino but want something more durable. All the books for woodcut printing and such, the complex articles on registering colours....I'm easily intimadated. Art is NOT my best skill but its my best loved. I need to stop researching and worrying and just jump in and do it...like you!

Sorry for the amateur admiration, but I just think its wonderful to be able to create images like these and ENJOY yourselves too!

Diane Cutter
06-26-2004, 05:58 AM
Hi, Fushia...

Welcome to the printmaking forum... We always enjoy new voices. Thanks for bumping this thread up to the top... Like a favorite fairy tale, it's always useful to read and re-read these. It's amazing how one absorbs little nuts of information when it is needed.

I am also beginning to experiment with woodcuts, having done lino for a long, long time. I'm finding the transition full of lots of minor glitches.

We look forward to hearing from you. And don't be shy about showing us your work. At the moment we seem to have a lot of linocut types, but we enjoy EVERYthing that is being done in the print world... Anything you wish to share...


07-04-2004, 08:09 AM
very nice demo . thanks for sharing

the thing that caught my eye the most was your registration for additional colors.
a real sticking oint for me

oh yes ,almost forgot
enjoyed the print ,has a true oriental look to it

08-15-2007, 04:43 PM

Thanks so much for sharing those instructions and your skills! Just the perfect introduction for some of us. I have been toying with the idea of trying some linoleum or woodblock printing, but I had not been able to find a good source of instructions until I stumbled upon your thread. Thanks again!


06-19-2011, 01:15 PM

Thanks for all the great info. I have been doing lino cuts for about a year now, but want to try wood cuts as the linoleum has limitations. Thank you for steering me in the right direction. As soon as I finish my current commission of 4 different carvings I am going to try and switch over. So glad I found this forum!

06-24-2011, 05:55 PM
Board wood often comes with 'mill marks' -- slight marks in the wood that you can't really see until you're tranfering your image to paper. So it's good to prepare your wood by sanding it's surface smooth.
What is the type of wood you have used?

06-28-2011, 08:45 AM
Many thanks for taking the time to lay it all out for us, Gisela. That is/was a terrific mini-lecture, and picture. As someone else remarked, the image has a very Japanese look to it, which I hope is taken as a compliment of the best kind.