How Are Woodblock Prints Made?

Let me show you the wonders of woodblock printing!

Together, we’ll dive into the intricate process behind this ancient technique, uncovering the materials, designs, and printing methods used by skilled artists.

You’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and popularity of woodblock prints.

Let’s get started!


As a student of woodblock printing, I understand the importance of selecting the right materials. Without the proper tools and supplies, the artist’s vision cannot come to life.

Firstly, the type of wood chosen for the printing block is essential. Traditionally, cherry wood was the go-to in Japan, but nowadays, artists have access to a variety of woods. Each type of wood brings unique qualities to the printing process, such as texture, durability, and ability to capture fine details. Birch, beech, and maple are also popular choices among artists.

Once the woodblock is selected, the artist must choose the best carving tools for the job. From small chisels and gouges to larger knives, each tool allows the artist to intricately carve the design into the woodblock. The artistry and skill of the carver are evident in every line and detail.

The ink used for printing is also crucial to the final result. The combination of pigments and binders in the ink must allow it to adhere to the paper and create a vibrant, long-lasting image. Using a brayer, the artist applies the ink to the surface of the carved woodblock, ensuring even coverage.

Finally, the paper used for woodblock printing is just as important as the other materials. Thin, high-quality paper is preferred for capturing the fine details during the printing process. Japanese washi paper is a popular choice among artists as it is durable and absorbs ink well. Once the ink is applied to the woodblock, the artist carefully aligns the paper and presses it onto the surface to transfer the image.

Selecting the right materials is essential for creating a beautiful and intricate woodblock print. With the proper tools and supplies, an artist can bring their vision to life and create a stunning work of art that will be admired for generations to come.

Design & Carving

I find the design and carving process to be a fascinating and crucial step in creating a stunning print.

To begin, artists use various techniques to create their design, such as drawing, painting, or digital methods. Once the design is complete, it is transferred onto the woodblock using a technique called “transferring.” This technique involves rubbing the back of the paper with a tool to transfer the image onto the surface of the wood, leaving behind an outline that the artist can use as a guide for carving.

You can see an artist “transferring” an image onto a wood block in the video below (2:40). This video also shows the full process of creating a woodblock print.

Woodblock Print – Start to Finish | David Bull

Carving is the most time-consuming and intricate step in creating a woodblock print. With great care and patience, artists use a variety of carving tools to meticulously carve away the areas of the wood that will not be printed. One popular technique is to carve in layers, starting with the larger areas of the design and gradually working towards the finer details. This allows the artist to create depth and dimensionality in the final print.

The design and carving process is a meticulous and time-consuming but essential step in creating a beautiful woodblock print. With careful planning, precise execution, and a touch of creativity, an artist can transform a piece of wood into a work of art that will be cherished for generations to come.


Printing is the exciting final step in creating a woodblock print. Before starting, I need to ensure that I have the right amount of ink on my brush or roller. Too much ink can result in smudges, while too little can cause the print to be faint.

Once the ink is ready, I line up the paper carefully with the woodblock, using registration marks or guides for precision. I press the paper onto the woodblock, taking care not to shift the alignment, to ensure a perfect print.

When the paper is lifted, I get to see the finished image for the first time. If I’m using multiple colors, I repeat the process with each color, building layers of depth and complexity.

One technique I use is called a “key block.” The key block is the first block printed and serves as a guide for subsequent blocks. By aligning the other blocks with the key block, I can create a final print with multiple colors and layers.

Woodblock printing is a beautiful and intricate process, requiring patience and skill. By using a variety of tools and techniques, I can create stunning prints with unique textures and details.


Taking care of your woodblock prints is crucial to preserving them over time. In this section, we’ll explore the post-printing steps that will help you keep your prints looking their best.

Drying and Storing Prints:

To avoid smudging or damage, it’s important to allow your woodblock print to dry completely before handling it. This can take anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the ink and paper used. Once dry, store your print in a flat, dry place, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

Mounting and Framing:

Mounting and framing your woodblock prints not only displays them but also provides protection. Traditionally, woodblock prints are displayed in scroll format, where the print is mounted onto a backing material and hung from a scroll rod. Alternatively, you can frame your prints using acid-free matting and UV-protective glass to prevent fading and damage.

Caring for and Preserving Prints:

Preserving your prints requires proper care.

  • Avoid touching the surface of the print with your fingers as this can cause smudging or damage.
  • Keep your prints away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures to prevent fading and discoloration.
  • To prevent damage from acids in paper and cardboard, use acid-free materials for framing and storage.
  • Handle prints with clean, dry hands or wear gloves to avoid transferring oils or dirt onto the print.
  • In case you need to clean a woodblock print, use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove dust or debris. Avoid using water or cleaning products as these can damage the print.

By following these tips, you can help preserve your woodblock prints for years to come.

Conclusion: Are Woodblock Prints Right for You?

As we come to the end of our journey into the world of woodblock printing, you may be pondering whether this art form is right for you. Although creating woodblock prints requires patience, skill, and dedication, the outcome is worth it.

As an artist, I recommend giving woodblock printing a try to add a new perspective to your art. Not only can you create exceptional prints, but the process of carving and printing can also be therapeutic and meditative.

Art collectors, you’ll be pleased to know that woodblock prints are an excellent addition to any collection. The intricate and beautiful designs, combined with the history and cultural significance of woodblock printing, make these prints unique and valuable.

Ultimately, it’s your decision whether to pursue woodblock printing or not. However, we encourage you to explore this art form further if you’re intrigued. There are many resources, such as classes, workshops, and online tutorials, available to help you get started.

Whether you’re an artist or an art collector, we hope this article has given you a greater appreciation for the art of woodblock printing and inspired you to explore this exceptional and unique medium further.