Woodblock Printing with Brushes and Rollers

Here's How I Use My Woodcut Blocks To Make Prints

In my last blog, I talked about the carving tools I used in Japanese block printing. One of the tools I use for printing is the traditional Japanese baren. This printing process goes back to 16th century Japan.

The baren is circular and used for transferring ink to paper by rubbing on the paper. The baren shown here is covered with a bamboo sheet. I brush out the block very thoroughly before printing.

After brushing out the woodblock, I will be using bleached mulberry paper. Just as it sounds, it’s whiter than it usually would be. This paper is from Thailand. Mulberry paper is a traditional source of Japanese prints.

For this first print, I’ll be using Speedball, a professional black ink made here in the United States. I will apply the ink with the Japanese inking brush. You will see it’s not sewn together tightly, so the ink coverage is lighter, more sparse. The ink I’m using here is pigmented and is an essential difference between the pigment and the dye-based ink.

This first print has a very painterly feeling. And that’s what the Japanese like, similar to Munakata.

For this second print, I’ll be using a roller. These rollers are much more common in the West. As you will see, there are many different sizes and kids of rollers: soft, hard, quite a variety. For a more exact image, I’ll use a roller. The coverage of ink is denser due to the roller being able to hold more ink when compared to the Japanese brush.

Overall, I’m still looking for a painterly quality in my woodblock prints. By not making it a straight print, I can use it as a base for mixed media art. Mixed media art is one of my preferred methods of working these days. I enjoy the possibilities that mixed media opens up for me.