Woodcut blocks are traditionally prepared on soft wood such as beech,
cherry or sycamore, always cut along the grain. A drawing is made onto the smooth block and the wood
either side of the lines is carefully removed using a knife and chisels
for larger areas. The result is a raised image which can then be
inked over. The paper is laid onto the design and pressure applied, the
image is then, naturally, transferred to the paper.
Woodcuts were the earliest form of printed illustrations in Europe,
beginning around the end of the 14th century and giving way to new
techniques around the 16th century.
Not to be confused with woodcuts,
wood-engraving was usually carried out on a block of hard wood which is
cut across the grain. The design is then etched into the wood using a
steel rod with a sharp pointed tip ( a burin). This offers a much
greater degree of control and accuracy which leads to greater delicacy
and also the use of shading. As the lines of the illustration are now
below the surface, as opposed to woodcut, the lines appear white when
printed. This technique was pioneered in the late 18th century by Thomas
Bewick and has been in use ever since.
This is the term used for the process where the surface to be inked is lower
than the areas to remain blank. This was initially done in 1500's on
copper plates, later on in the 1800's the process moved to more durable
steel plates because of the need for larger print runs. The plate is
inked and wiped clean before plate and paper are pressed together,
forcing the paper into the grooves to receive the ink.
The design is cut on a metal plate using a burin. This technique was first
used in the 15th century in Germany and Italy though largely for
producing original works rather than general illustrations.
This form of
the illustrative process involves working with tone rather than defined
lines. The plate starts smooth so as to produce and even black print
then the surface is pitted so areas and sections will hold a
varying amount of ink thereby producing tonal definition. Although used
mainly in England the process was invented in Holland in the 17th
This is a method
of etching not in black but in tone. The process was popular for
reproducing watercolours and was developed in the mid 18th century. It
involves the use of fine particles which react differently to acids and
immersion in water, thereby creating different tones.
An image is drawn
onto a plate, the process works on the principal that grease and water
do not mix. Lithographic chalk or ink is used to draw the image which is
then protected by a resin type solution. The image can then be inked and
pressed. This technique was invented in 1798 Aloys Senefelder.
This technique started in the early 1800's
before reaching its peak in the 1880's. It requires a separate printing
surface for applying each colour. This allowed for great detail and very
vivid colours, especially suited to children's books, natural history
and also the reproduction of illuminated manuscripts.
© 2004 Bookseller World