Woodblock Press

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Screen printing requires more chemistry than wood block, and to be honest I have a lot less experience with it because it requires more preparation and prohibitively expensive materials, light a Light Exposure Table. But it certainly has it's strengths. Color registration is pretty easy, you can easily reproduce an image almost infinitely. It also recreates a drawing on transparency almost perfectly.


  • Drawing - You have options here. It needs to be some sort of ink or wax, something permanent
    • PSharpie pens - Fine or Medium tip. Whatever.
    • Acrylic Paint - $2 a tube - any color except black.
  • Screen - It's like a sieve, or a fine filter.
    • There are different kinds, but I like a screen made of ultra-fine silk threads drawn tight around an aluminum frame.
    • $20 - $40 from iMcClain's or DickBlick, depends on size.
    • ~22x15", more if you want multiple colors
  • Screen chemicals
    • Light sensitive photo-emulsion. Thick green goop, hardens with exposure to light.
  • Printing
  • Cleaning
    • Shop Towels OR
    • Rags from torn up old clothing
    • Simple Green - Engine cleaner


  • Get an image. In wood block printing, you want something as detailed as possible, with as many lines as possible. Since you'll be carving out all the white space, the more black you have the better.
  • Draw the image on a sheet of MDF
  • Coat the drawing surface with acrylic paint. Use a little dab of paint, rub it in with a wet paper towel until the top of the board is tinted with the paint color.
  • Let dry. Could take 10-20 minutes.


  • Figure out how to hold a gouge tool without cutting yourself. It sounds simple, but some people seriously have this problem. When you're not at it, never let the blade face you or your other arm until you learn what pressure works. Always hold a tool by the handle, never by the blade. If you have to push that hard, you need to sharpen your tools.
  • Carve out all the negative areas in your drawing, the white space in between your lines. You'll find that having shadows, and hatching marks for texture will save you a lot of time because there will be less white space to carve.
    • When you carve something out, it is permanent. There is no erasing mistakes in wood block. A little slip will hardly be noticable (especially in more detailed images) but

do be careful, as each cut into your block is permanent.

  • When starting out, use a tiny v-gouge to outline your fine lines. Then it will be safe to go back with larger tools, brushing up against your previous cuts.
  • Sharpen your tools frequently, every few hours or when it starts to get hard to handle.
    • Sharpening Instructions to follow. Easy enough, only takes a minute. When carving linoleum, or when using cheap HL tools, you really don't need to bother.


  • Spray water on your rives paper, misting it lightly. Let it sit between two towels so it's just barely damp when you go to print. Takes about 10 minutes, maybe less.
  • With an ink gouge, take your ink and spread it on your sheet of plexiglass (rolling surface)
  • Take your brayer and roll your ink out flat on the surface. Should have a velvety texture when it's completely flat and uniform. Brayer must be completely covered, and even throughout.
  • Roll your brayer in one direction over your finished wood block so that you can see each line in fresh, wet black ink on top.
  • Set your block on a table, inked side up.
  • Take your damp paper, set it down flat on the inked surface.
  • With your baren, push down and rub the paper up against the plate in a circular motion, rotating your hand as you go. Keep rubbing each part of the image over and over until you smell onions.
    • Make sure the paper doesn't slide at all while you're doing this, it will ruin your image. Rives is a heavy paper so it's not a huge issue, but you're pushing down with the baren might cause it to move if you go too fast or too hard. Moderation, grass hopper.
    • You will never smell onions. Just keep rubbing. Keep going until it hurts, then do it some more. If you think you're done, you're wrong. Do it a little more.
    • Not to overstate the case, it doesn't take the long, but seriously you need to be really thorough because if it's done enough here there's no way to give it a second pass, you have to get it right all in one go.
  • Peel the paper off, and hopefully you should have a complete image.
    • Nobody gets this on the first try, that's what we call a proof. Feel free to use a cheaper paper the first time around and do some practice runs. For practice runs, use cheap copy paper or newsprint, don't bother soaking it. Just get your print on.