Just Hit Print… Block Printing

A couple of days ago there was a thread on the Etsy forums about reproducing 3-dimension art. The author was very confused about the different types of printing methods. I thought the subject would be a great blog post. Educational for not only the art seller or creator but also for art buyers. I will start off with block printing, which is the oldest form of printing.

The History

Block printing originated in China in the antiquity. The earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220. The sample on the left is from a Chinese text from the Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1378 appox.). This sample on the right is from approximately 1704-1716. It was printed, then hand-colored.


The Method

Block printing is a “relief” type of printing. Which means the areas where there is to be no ink the wood is cut away, the ink will cover the “original” surface area. Block printing was originally used to print on textiles, and later on paper. The blocks for the printing were originally wood, now artists also use linoleum blocks. The easiest form of block printing is one ink color (one block). But color block printing is also possible, for every color a new block is needed.

There are three methods of printing to used with block printing:

  • Stamping which is used for many fabrics and most early European woodcuts. Printing is done by putting the paper or fabric on a flat surface with the blocks on top and pressing or hammering the back of the block.
  • Rubbing which the block goes face-up on a flat surface, with the paper or fabric on top. The back is then rubbed with a burnisher (pad, wood, leather, etc).
  • And a printing press

Here is a great tutorial from Lizzy House on linoleum block printing.

Examples of Block Printing

Below are examples of block printing available on Etsy. These prints are all on paper, left to right:


These are on fabric, left to right:


Hope you enjoyed this little snippet on block printing. Next up letterpress.


3 Responses to “Just Hit Print… Block Printing”

  1. I have tried block printing on fabric, as well as paper, and it’s a lot of fun. I love the Arts & Crafts, William Morris look. My best advice to everyone trying it would be to keep your designs very simple. If you have complicated images in mind then this is not you medium. But if you want to print clean, bold images, it is extremely satisfying. Watch out because once you get started you will soon get hooked!

  2. Block printing is great fun! I havenot done it in too long 😦 maybe tonight!

  3. This was such a great post about my favorite medium. Thanks so much for including my work!

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