A method of relief printing from a block of wood cut along the grain

1 of 3
  • Tony Bevan, 'Portrait Man' 1994
    Tony Bevan
    Portrait Man 1994
    Woodcut on paper
    image: 734 x 550 mm
    Purchased 1996© Tony Bevan
  • Vija Celmins, 'Ocean Surface Woodcut 1992' 1992
    Vija Celmins
    Ocean Surface Woodcut 1992 1992
    Woodcut on Whatman 1953 paper
    image: 224 x 304 mm
    Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008© Vija Celmins
  • Jean Arp (Hans Arp), 'Torn-Up Woodcut' 1920/54
    Jean Arp (Hans Arp)
    Torn-Up Woodcut 1920/54
    Wood engraving torn and laid on board
    unconfirmed: 213 x 165 mm
    Presented by Mr and Mrs Robert Lewin through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1970© DACS, 2002

The block is carved so that an image stands out in relief. The relief image is then inked and paper placed against its surface before being run through a press. It is possible to make a woodcut without a press (Japanese Ukiyo-e prints for example) by placing the inked block against a sheet of paper and applying pressure by hand.

Woodblock printing was used in Europe from the twelfth century, at first for printing textiles, though images were printed on paper by the late fourteenth century.