In the field of plastic arts, there are different techniques by which artists can express their works of art. One of the oldest of which there is a record is woodcut , which is based on the demarcation of different designs on a piece of wood and then printing the desired drawing on it with ink. It is considered one of the most original ways of representing symbols, everyday situations or different types of images.

Related topics

Lithography ,  screen printing

What is Woodcut?

Woodcut is a technique by means of which, on a piece of wood, the desired design is printed and then, by means of a gouge , carve said image manually, leaving in relief the drawing to which ink will later be placed , so that it protrudes into the piece.

  • What does it consist of
  • Woodcut Features
  • History
  • Types
  • What materials are used
  • What tools are used
  • Japanese woodcut
  • Mexican woodcut
  • Woodcut on canvas
  • Importance
  • Artists

What does it consist of

Woodcut is a technique from the field of fine arts that consists of engraving on a piece of wood, it is a type of printing based on the carving of different types of images and even texts on wood. The drawing, which has already been previously elaborated, is transferred to the piece and subsequently proceeds, by means of a gouge, to carve it carefully and very carefully, to then place the ink on the surface that has already been previously worked.

When this process ends, the drawing is put under pressure either with a piece of cloth or with a piece of paper, adding supports so that the engraving is well printed.

Woodcut Features

The aspects that characterize woodcut are different, the most important are the following:

  • Achieve images based on black lines on a white background or vice versa.
  • The drawings that are placed on the piece of wood must first be carved by hand .
  • In general , the use of wood with a hard consistency is recommended.
  • There are two types of woodcuts: straight and testa .
  • The artist must lower the parts of the wood that will not be printed, so that only the lines that will be used to generate the drawing remain .
  • The process of placing the ink must be repeated several times to achieve an adequate color tone .
  • In the woodcut, the image obtained at the end will always be inverted with respect to its original. This is because a mirror effect is obtained .


According to historians, woodcut was born in China hundreds of years ago, however, other studies also point to its origins in Egypt , mainly during the VI and VII years. At the beginning of the 13th century, the technique reached Europe and, in fact, this continent was the first to carry out work following the technique. Woodcut is believed to have played a very important role in the printing process during these years, and was in fact the model followed for the creation of the printing press.

After a period of decline, at the beginning of the 20th century, woodcut reappeared in the ashes thanks to expressionism , a movement opposed to impressionism that was in charge of distorting reality to express it in a subjective and more personal way. During these years, there was a greater advance in the technique, even different color tones were used. Currently, this technique is only used in the field of arts , since technology has displaced its use as a printing medium.


There are two types of techniques that can be used to make a woodcut, these are:

Thread woodcut

This technique is also popularly known by the name of fiber woodcut . Its main characteristics is that the wood must be cut longitudinally to the trunk and the wood grain is in a parallel position with respect to the plank.

Woodcut to testa

It is known by the name of woodcut against fiber and in it, the wood is cut transversely causing the wood grain to be perpendicular to the surface of the piece.

What materials are used

The main material needed to make a woodcut is wood . It is most recommended that hard consistency wood such as cherry, pear, oak, and pine among others be used. It is important to remember that among the most important materials to carry out the technique we find gouges .

The ink used for engraving is another important materials usually used in black. This ink can be obtained in the market with the name of Chinese ink . It will also be necessary to use paper to trace the drawing, an ink roller and a wooden spoon to remove the remaining pieces of wood.

What tools are used

Another of the fundamental materials for the engraving are the gouges , iron instruments that are used to carve the design. This tool has a handle and a small sharp point , in addition, there are several types depending on the function they perform. The burin is a tool formed by a small steel bar that ends in a point and that helps to cut by means of small blows made with a hammer.

The intaglio press is considered a very important tool for woodcuts and consists of two rollers that are responsible for causing pressure on a metal plate on which the engraving design is placed, which causes the ink to properly impregnate on the previously drawn lines.

Japanese woodcut

Moku-hanga is the name by which the Japanese woodcut is known. Its main difference with other types of woodcut is the use of pigments that use water as a base , its registration and the use of the hand tool to print, which is known by the name of baren. It is a type of woodcut that has the ability to enhance effects and achieve textures that cannot be easily achieved.

Mexican woodcut

In Mexico , woodcut has excelled greatly and has been practiced by many important artists, the technique is characterized by being robust and very dynamic in terms of figure issues. It was the means by which this country disseminated information and notices that were of an urgent nature, in addition to representing daily mischief of daily living.

Woodcut on canvas

This procedure consists of placing the design on a fabric base that is of the washable type to then be able to place the inks that will be printed to outline and fill the desired drawing. The inks ideals do not need heat to adhere to the fabric and must be left in place on the design least 24 hours to dry properly. However, it is recommended to leave it for approximately 7 days to dry completely at room temperature.


Its greatest importance occurred in antiquity as it was the ideal medium to be able to make interpretations of texts where drawing was the main characteristics. It was also widely used to distribute information when the printing press did not yet exist. Furthermore, it was one of the many media that were used to convey expressive language.


Among its main artists we can mention:

  • Alberto Durero , outstanding artist of the Renaissance
  • Hans Baldung , German painter, engraver, illustrator and designer
  • Pablo Picasso , engraver, painter and important sculptor
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
  • Edward Hopper
  • Francisco de Goya , painter and printmaker
  • Miguel Condé who was a Mexican painter, draftsman and printmaker


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