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Japanese Woodblock Print Technique
- Begin the process with a painting. The painting should be pen and ink style done on thin paper. The outlines from the pen sketch will be used to trace the pattern on the wood block. If you are new to wood carving, it would be best to start with a simple drawing. Traditional Japanese woodcarvers spent years studying under masters before being allowed to undertake detailed carvings. Don't get discouraged by your first attempt.
Tracing the Image
- Paste the picture to a fine-grained block of hardwood. Use a sharp knife to trace the outlines of the picture.
Carving the Key Block
- The first block is called the key block. It is used to transfer the black outlines of the drawing to the paper. Since the raised surfaces of the block will be inked, everything that is not an outline of the picture needs to be carved off of the block. A raised "L" shape left in one corner of the block and a raised bar on the opposite long side will act as a registry points to line up subsequent prints.
Printing the Reference Drawing
- Ink the raised surface of the key block. Place a piece of paper on the block and press it against the inked surface with a roller or blunt stick.
Carving Color Blocks
- Paste the reference drawing on a new piece of fine-grained hardwood and trace the areas where the individual color is to be applied. Carve away all wood from the non-colored areas. You will need to leave the same reference marks as on the key block.
Repeat this step for each individual color you wish to use.
- Make a print of the outline drawing first. After applying ink to the second block, line up the paper with the reference points and apply pressure with a roller or blunt stick to transfer the ink to the print. Repeat this step until you have transferred all the colors to the print. Traditionally, the lightest colored inks are applied first.