A to Z Learn Something New Every Day


xylotypography — Printing using the medium of wooden blocks.

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“Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples fromChina date to before 220, and woodblock printing remained the most common East Asian method of printing books and other texts, as well as images, until the 19th century. Ukiyo-e is the best known type of Japanese woodblock art print. Most European uses of the technique for printing images on paper are covered by the art term woodcut, except for the block-books produced mainly in the 15th century.” SOURCE


The wood block is carefully prepared as a relief pattern, which means the areas to show ‘white’ are cut away with a knife, chisel, or sandpaper leaving the characters or image to show in ‘black’ at the original surface level. The block was cut along the grain of the wood. It is necessary only to ink the block and bring it into firm and even contact with the paper or cloth to achieve an acceptable print. The content would of course print “in reverse” or mirror-image, a further complication when text was involved. The art of carving the woodcut is technically known as xylography, though the term is rarely used in English.

For colour printing, multiple blocks are used, each for one colour, although overprinting two colours may produce further colours on the print. Multiple colours can be printed by keying the paper to a frame around the woodblocks.

There are three methods of printing to consider:

Used for many fabrics, and most early European woodcuts (1400–40). These items were printed by putting paper or fabric on a table or a flat surface with the block on top, and pressing, or hammering, the back of the block.
 The block is placed face side up on a table, with the paper or fabric on top. The back of the paper or fabric is rubbed with a “hard pad, a flat piece of wood, a burnisher, or a leather frotton”.
Printing in a press
“Presses” only seem to have been used in Asia in relatively recent times. Simple weighted presses may have been used in Europe, but firm evidence is lacking. Later, printing-presses were used (from about 1480). “ SOURCE



8 thoughts on “A to Z Learn Something New Every Day

  1. Hi Ivy,

    Yes, I have finally arrived. Yay and gosh! 🙂

    Your brother, very much like your good self, has an abundance of talent. A chip of the old woodblock 🙂

    Kind regards,

    Gary, the official anti-A to Z spokesman….


  2. cool…. I remember art class somewhere (maybe high school, probably college… one of the required humanities…*)
    I recall admiring the notion of the implied pattern, the in reverse, relief pattern carved with those small, curved blade knives… huh! the things that sit in the memory, waiting for a prompt.

    * odd sounding, no? the required humanities…otherwise you are free to learn the profane and inhumane


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