Beginning woodcuts

Fish printed in colour on pale orange backgroundI decided to try my hand at woodcuts. I've done a few linocuts and some monoprints and enjoyed the process, and I love the strength of woodcut prints. Here is the process I've worked out so far, by trial and error, reading books and a few blogs.


Do a line drawing on the piece of wood (a very thin piece of plywood). Mark an X in the corner I'm using to register the paper to.

Cut some lines with woodcarving tools - the only one I'm having much luck with so far is the U-shaped one. I also used the Dremel moto tool.

These are the lines that will stay white.

Mix some ink on a plate, scoop it onto a sheet of glass and flatten it with the palette knife. (If I want to avoid some of the cleanup I use acetate instead of glass and throw it away).

Roll the brayer in the ink and roll it onto the wood.

fish in white lines on pale orange background

Place the paper on top of the wood, with the corner of the paper matching up to the corner with the X on it. (Some papers seem to take the print better if they are lightly sprayed with water first).

Place a piece of acetate over the paper. This is if the paper is getting roughed up by the rubbing of the baren.

Use a baren to rub over the print.

Pull up the print.

Cut the shape of the fish out of a piece of acetate, lay it over the wood and roll ink onto the wood. I used baking paper but it stuck to everything and tore so acetate or something similar would work better.

Two woodcuts of fish with the fish shape cut out of paper

Remove the acetate and only the fish shape has ink on it.

In this case I rolled two colours on the brayer without mixing them so it gave a rainbow effect. I used a fair bit of transparent ink mixed into these inks.

Two woodcuts and the prints made from them

Lay the print over the wood, another sheet of acetate on top and then rub it with the baren.

I wanted to save the fish shape but cut it out in order to print only the background for the next layer.

Drill some holes to let the scrollsaw blade through, and then use the scrollsaw to cut out the fish and to round off one edge of the wood. Cutting off the part you don't want to print can save a lot of work with the woodcarving tools.

The fish shape cut out of the sheet of wood by the scroll saw

Ink up the wood and print the next layer.

The wood with the cutout and the print made from it

Since I had saved the fish shape (except for the fins), I did some prints of it as well.


Here is a print that I finished off with some ink and crayon.

Orange fish on green background embellished with yellow crayon and brown ink

Tools and materials

Paper (Hahnemuhle, lightweight for hand printing)


Dinner plate to mix ink


Sheet of glass to roll out ink with brayer


Ink (in this case I used Derivan water based block inks for easy cleanup)

Scroll saw


Dremel moto tool

Woodcarving tools

Pen, crayons