Woodcut

Saint Denis 1826

Woodcut—formally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood. the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges. The areas to show ‘white’ are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in ‘black’ at the original surface level.

The block is cut along the grain of the wood (unlike wood engraving where the block is cut in the end-grain). Beechwood is commonly used in Europe. Cherry wood is favored in Japan. The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller (brayer), leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas. Multiple colors can be printed by keying the paper to a frame around the woodblocks (where a different block is used for each color).

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