As an example of relief printing, woodcuts represent an artistic approach to printmaking that has been around for centuries. Beginning with a simple block of wood, the woodcut is a means of creating visual works by employing techniques such as stamping, rubbing, and use of a printing press. Referred to as xylography, the creation of woodcuts is considered to be a time honored art form. Here is some background on woodcuts, and how they work.
Preparing a block of wood for use in a series of woodcuts involves chiseling or gouging away the portions of the flat side of the block that are not required as part of the design. It is important to make sure that the gouges are made in such a manner that they go along with the natural grain of the wood, rather than running against the grain. This helps to ensure that when the completed template is inked and brought into contact with the printing surface, there is less of a chance of smearing. Careful and precise creation of the design will result in what is essentially a solid image that can be transferred onto paper, canvas or any surface that the artist wishes to use.
Ink is usually administered to the wood block by rolling over the surface of the template with a device that is referred to as a brayer. The brayer is essentially a roller that helps to distribute the ink evenly over the gouged surface of the block, thus ensuring an even coat when the ink is applied to the print surface. When more than one color is desired as part of the overall design, the surface of the wood block can be cleaned, and a different color of ink applied to the print. The use of two or more colors in woodcuts has always been popular, with the practice of multiple colors gaining more attention in recent years.
Stamping a single wood block to the print surface is often the popular means of creating woodcuts. In addition, a process known as rubbing may create interesting designs for woodcuts. This involves placing the block on a flat surface, placing the paper over the block, and then rubbing the area to reveal a design. Last, multiple blocks may be assembled onto a printing press and used to mass create woodcuts that are ideal for use in books as well as the mass production of woodcuts that serve as wall prints and other forms of decoration.