The woodcut, also known as xylography, is the oldest form of printmaking. As the name indicates, it is a wooden printing plate. The desired image is drawn onto it and then cut out with knives. Both hardwood (oak, beech) and softwood (larch, linden) are suitable for use as printing plates.
Represented by about 1400 in Central Europe, the woodcut exists in East Asia already since the 8th century. [1]

All parts that are to be visible in print as lines, letters, etc., remain sublime and are then coated with paint. Therefore, the woodcut is one of the high pressure processes. The areas which appear white on the sheet are cut out of the previously smoothly planed and ground wood panel.
The application of the ink is carried out either with a bale or by a roller. The roller is rolled over the plate and so the raised ridges (cut lines giving the image) are colored. [2]

Compared with later printing processes, such as copper or steel engraving, the woodcut is still relatively coarse and offers fewer opportunities for expression. The reason for this are the wood fibers.
On the back of the printed sheet, the printed lines are recognizable sublime, visually and haptically. [3] A platemark, like it is present in all methods of gravure, does not exist.

By pressing an absorbent paper on the coated plate, the color is transferred. This represents the printing process. The finished graphic is, like the wood panel, called woodcut.
As an alternative to printing in a press, it was also possible to transfer the color to the sheet by brushing the paper with a brush or rubbing it with a bale. [2]

Mainly used for the book illustration, illustrations and text could be printed together on a single page from about 1420 for the first time in so-called block books. These were previously cut into the same wooden plate, so that image and text could not be printed separately, but in one pass. [1]


[1] Strunck, Christina: Geschichte der Buchkunst – Vom Pergament zum E-Book. Eine Einführung, 2013.
[2] Woodcut (German):
[3] Zender, Joachim Elias: Lexikon Buch, Druck, Papier, 2008.

02/14/2018 - 14:48

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