Woodblock Printing Grades 10-12

Project theme:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • Paper
  • Glass plate
  • Ink
  • Wood blocks
  • Paint
Tool list
  • Brayer (roller)
  • Sandpaper (120-180 grit)
  1. Look at the Northwest coast art designs and select a pre-cut wood block. Next copy or draw your own designs on tracing paper. Make sure your lines are bold and dark. Keep in mind that your design will be backward to what you have drawn
  2. Prepare the block by lightly sanding the top and sides, making sure to remove any sharp corners as well
  3. Paint the top and sides of the block with a thin coat of primer/sealer (optional)
  4. Lightly sand the paint with 120-180 grit paper for a smooth working surface, and coat with primer again, if necessary
  5. Put a piece of tracing paper over your design, with your pencil trace all of the lines in the design. Transfer your design onto the wood by taping the tracing paper face down on the block. Go over your design lines with your pencil. Lift off the tracing paper and fix up any gaps or weak lines so you have a clear design to work with
  6. Carve out your design positively, making sure that the part you leave will be your finished design. You can create shading and other effects with sandpaper, or by carving out fine lines. Your cuts used to remove material around your design can create interesting background textures as well. You can also use a bench hook to hold your piece and keep it from slipping forward as you carve
  7. Prepare your paper, cutting it to size. It should be larger than your block, with extra room on the bottom for a signature. Proportionally the sides should be about two-thirds the width on the sides, compared to the bottom of the paper, outside your design. You can also prepare test papers such as rice paper or newsprint to make sure your block is as you want it. Try a print on this before committing to a good paper
  8. Organize your inking area on a clean and sturdy table. Get your glass plate, brayer, ink, barren, and spoon ready. Set out your inking plate making sure there is no dust or dirt
  9. Apply a small amount of ink to the glass. Use only enough to apply a thin coat onto the glass plate. Usually, this is about a teaspoon or dime blob amount. You may need to reapply ink in between prints. Make sure not to over ink your plate or block, or you will lose definition in your design
  10. Use the brayer to roll out ink on your glass plate. Keep rolling ink until it has a sticky consistency and hisses like a snake as you roll it. It will be ready when the lines that are formed in the ink by the brayer (roller) will be close together. When the brayer is not in use, lay it on its back roller up
  11. Apply ink to woodblock in a thin, even coat. You can re-ink your brayer and roll over any areas again that didn't get inked on the first pass
  12. With clean hands carefully place your paper onto the woodblock, press straight down firmly with barren, in small circles all around your block
  13. You can make a simple registration beforehand to get consistent placement of your paper on the block. Use a large sheet of newsprint paper and center your block. Draw around your block with a black felt tip pen. Next, lay your printing paper over your block shape, positioning it to where you want your print. Draw around the paper with a pen. Lay your block in the middle square and then match up your printing paper on the left line corners and gently roll it onto your woodblock
  14. Use the back of the spoon, rubbing firmly all over the paper on the block to get an even pressing, picking up all ink from the block
  15. Gently lift the paper off the block, peeling from one side and being careful not to smudge the ink as you lift it off the block
  16. Hang the print with clean wooden clothes pegs, or lay it flat (preferably on a rack) to dry. 16: Repeat steps 9 – 15 for the desired number of prints in the run
  17. Clean all items used with soap and water, if water-based ink was used, or paint thinner (mineral spirits/varsol) for oil-based ink
  18. Put your blocks somewhere to dry. You need them completely dry before using them again
  19. You have created your woodblock print! Don't forget to be proud of yourself for learning something new!

  20. When the prints are dry, don't forget to sign your work! Write a description explaining your piece!
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