DIY Woodcut – Printmaking by hand at home

I have been keen to start printmaking from woodcutting at home for some time and I can now say that I have successfully finished my first set of prints!


Equipment and Materials

Starting from scratch, I had a long shopping list of equipment I was going to have to buy to do this – but I was unsure what was best to spend my money on. Being my first attempt from home I couldn’t see the point in spending a fortune on professional materials, and besides, surely some of it is down to technique not materials?

I’ve always been very resourceful with materials anyway, I believe that I don’t always have to spend money and there are many things around the house and garden that can produce a much more unique result.

I had been advised that the best investment to make is on the knives, so I splashed out on a decent set of student cutting tools from Lawrence’s. I also bought a new rubber ink roller (although if you shop around there are a few second hand ones available on ebay). The third thing I invested in was a small pot of black oil-based ink.

For ‘practice wood’ I visited the local DIY shop, and managed to haggle a deal for some off-cuts, thus rescuing waste material destined for the scrap heap and doing my bit for the planet 🙂

I found a tin of old wood varnish and sheets of sandpaper in the garage and after a couple of layers of varnishing and sanding the wood was smooth and ready to go.


How I did it

I drew my design on paper and then when it was ready, transferred using carbon paper and went over it with a permanent marker pen.

After cutting out my design, I made a ‘rubbing’ with some light paper and crayons, to check the design was how I wanted it to be. There was a knot in the wood that I couldn’t avoid so I decided to edit the design to hide the knot – I made a few adjustment cuts in the wood and was ready to go.

I spread the ink onto a glass surface (a kitchen chopping board!) before inking up the wood.

I laid the paper over the top of the wood and carefully used a smooth door knob (more resourcefulness!) to rub the ink onto the paper, being careful not to move the paper and cause a ‘ghosting’ effect on the print.

I had a variety of paper kicking about so decided to experiment with several types. Parcel paper, cartridge, watercolour all provided different results.

Not bad for a first attempt!



Screenprinting using photo process

Earlier this month I spent 3 days at Curwen Print Study Centre at Chilford Hall, Cambridge. Curwen is a fantastic printmaking centre run by some lovely people.

I took in some of my drawings on acetate and learned from Sue Jones how to use photo-emulsion on a silkscreen to reproduce my drawing as a screenprint.

I love experimenting with layers in printmaking so enjoyed particularly making a monoprint bottom layer in a very  loose style, contrasted by an overprinted layer of detailed illustration.

Some of the results were stunning!

Woodblock in a Weekend

I just completed a 3 day chinese woodblock printmaking course led by wood block artist, Dr. Weimin He.

chinese woodblock class

A dancer called Catherine challenged us with drawing movement from life, as she showed off her many dance moves while we frantically tried to capture her in a sketch! Here are the results after transferring frantic sketches into wood cutting:

Greek Dancer (Catherine) 1  Greek Dancer (Catherine) 2

We  were guided through the specialist woodcutting processes, tools and materials, helping us to understand the best ways to not only get great results in the class, but also giving us skills which we could take home with us. So hopefully if you watch this space I will have more woodcuts to show you in the future! I just need to kit myself out with materials at home…

Weiman is displaying his work at St Barnabas Press in Cambridge throughout June and we were lucky enough to see his exhibition during our course which was held at the press. Woodblock printing has a long history in China and at St Barnabas they have been lucky to have many visiting artists from China.

The beauty of the seasons.

I feel so lucky living in the UK that I can experience the landscape around me change so visually every season. I go to bed with a green garden and wake up with a white one! How can the weather ever be miserable when it is always changing?

I have used the same lino plate of a tree to print 2 very different sets of images in different colours. It reminds me of how seasons can take the exactly same location and make it look so different.

Here are my favourite prints from the set. I would say that one could be autumn and one winter.

The plate is always more beautiful than the print

Is it just me or is the plate almost always more beautiful than the print? It’s where the real effort is illustrated. You can see every scrape, cut and mark…

Lino tree:

Linocut tree

Linocut tree

Wood Sunflower:Woodcut sunflower

A little distraction…

One of the reasons I have been slow to draw recently is that I have been going to a printmaking class. I’ve just finished cutting my first block of wood using lino tools. It’s difficult getting a sharp line, even with a sharp tool when going against the grain. The wood is so soft that it tears. I think it looks ok though. here it is, ready for inking:

Woodcut Sunflower

Woodcut Sunflower

Recognise the style? I wasn’t sure I could repeat the ‘ink and twig’ effect but I think this should fit in well with the collection netherless. I’m really excited about how well this is going to print!

I’m going to class tomorrow night to ink it up…

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