Relief printing is the oldest printing process, first used in China in around 800 AD. By cutting pieces away from a surface like wood or linoleum, the artist creates an image using the surface that remains, which is then inked and transferred to paper or textile by applying light pressure. Linocut, woodcut and wood engraving are all relief printing process.
Woodcuts are created using a block of side-grain or cross-grain wood or manufactured board. Whilst cutting, the artists will work with the grain, and you will often see details of the wood grain and chisel marks in the finished artwork.
Wood engravings are created using a denser and more compact piece of ‘end-grain’ wood, which allows the artist to create a wider variety of marks and texture. Wood engraving is a more delicate process than woodcut, and this is reflected in the detail and quality of the work.
On the left you will find an excellent video made by Royal Academy, London, of Anne Desmet RA making a Wood Engraving print.
Linocuts are created using linoleum, which is easy to cut and has become a more popular alternative to carving wood. Its smooth surface gives a very different finish to woodcut and allows for more fluid lines.
Image below © Women’s Studio Workshop