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


What is Woodcut?

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


What does it consist of

Woodcut is a technique in 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 then proceeds, by means of a gouge, to carve it carefully and very carefully and then place the ink on the surface that has already been previously worked.


When this process is finished, the drawing is subjected to pressure either with a piece of cloth or with a piece of paper, adding supports so that the engraving is well printed in this way.

Characteristics of the woodcut

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 that has a hard consistency is recommended.
  • There are two types of woodcuts: straight and head .
  • The artist must reduce the parts of the wood that will not be printed, so that in this way 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 a suitable color tone .
  • In the woodcut, the image that is obtained at the end will always be inverted with respect to its original. This is because a mirror effect is obtained .


According to historians, the woodcut was born in China hundreds of years ago, however, other studies also point its origins to Egypt , mainly during the sixth and seventh years. At the beginning of the 13th century, the technique managed to reach 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 that was followed in the creation of the printing press.

After a period of decadence, at the beginning of the 20th century, woodcut re-emerged from the ashes thanks to expressionism , a movement opposed to impressionism that was responsible for distorting reality to express it in a subjective and more personal way. During these years, there was a major advance in the technique, even different shades of colors were used. At present, this technique is only used in the field of the arts , as technology displaced its use as a printing medium.


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

Woodcut to thread

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

Head woodcut

It is known by the name of woodcut against fiber and in it, the wood is cut transversely causing the grain of the wood 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 best to use hard wood such as cherry, pear, oak, and pine, among others. It is important to remember that the gouges are among the most important materials to perform the technique .

The ink used for xylography is another important material and is usually used in black. This ink can be obtained in the market under 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 excess pieces of wood.

What tools are used

Another of the fundamental material for the realization of the engraving are gouges , iron instruments that are used to carve the design. This tool has a handle and a small sharp tip , 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 xylography 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 be adequately impregnated on the previously drawn lines.

Japanese woodcut

Moku-hanga is the name by which Japanese woodcut is known. Its main difference from 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 as 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 , the woodcut has greatly excelled and has been practiced by many important artists, the technique is characterized by being robust and very dynamic in terms of figure themes. 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 life.

Woodcut on canvas

This procedure consists of placing the design on a cloth base that is washable in order to then be able to place the inks that will be printed to delineate and fill in 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 ancient times because it was the ideal medium to be able to make interpretations of texts where drawing was the main characteristic. It was also used extensively to be able to distribute information when the printing press did not yet exist. Furthermore, it was one of the many means that were used to convey expressive language.

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