How to Woodblock Print | A Beginners Guide | By Adele Scantlebury

How to Woodblock Print for Beginners

In this guide I'll teach you how to woodblock print, form the resources and tools you'll need to the method of printing. My name is Adele Scantlebury, a woodblock printer based in East Sussex and I've been woodblock printing for years. At its core woodblock printing is simple and it doesn't have to be expensive.

If you'd like to learn from me and other tutors sign up for one of my woodblock printing course here.

Choosing a piece of wood

Choosing your piece of wood will have a big impact on the final print you make, but this doesn't mean you have to buy premium wood. I like using plywood because it has grain (more info below) that you can see in the print. Its also cheap and easy to buy, I've even taken it from skips before. There are different qualities so be careful what you go for. 

What is wood grain?

Grain refers to the fibers of the wood running through the tree. When carving, going in the direction of the grain (with the grain) is easier as the fibers align and going against it will be harder. 

The difference between woodblock carving and ingraining is that with carving the grain is visible and runs across the length of width of the block and wood engraving is when the grain is going up or down. Engraving allows for more detail but I like the limitation of carving as they force you to keep it simple and stylistic.

Finding a perfectly flat piece of wood isn't necessary with carving but engraving also requires a press and a completely flat piece of wood. But with carving and my trusty wooden spoon you're able to get into all the nooks and crannies.

What tools you'll need


You will need three type of chisel to effectively carve, but there are many types available. You will need a bladed chisel for cutting and going across the grain, a V gouge to run along lines you've already cut to make lines wider, and a U gouge to take out large areas of wood, working from the lines made by the V to make deep indents and create the raised print area.

This set on amazon should do the trick.

Paper and ink

Any art paper will do the job when it comes to printing, you can even print on newspaper if you don't mind the risk of it ripping. The one thing of note though, if your piece of wood and is very textured I'd recommend a smooth piece of paper to get all the details.

When it comes to ink I use a linseed oil based ink, as it provides a good sheen, however its hard to get off. For first timers I'd recommend Caligo safe wash relief inks as they're easy to clean up.

Wooden spoon

You will need a wooden spoon to press the paper to the inked block.

Ink roller

You will need an ink roller and an easily washable hard material to roll ink off, I use a piece of glass.

Step by Step Woodblock Printing

  1. Draw an image in reverse on the wood
  2. Carve out your image
  3. Ink the woodblock carving
  4. Lay your paper over the carving
  5. Rub the back of the paper to transfer the inked carving into an image

Draw your image

Draw out an image onto your flat piece of wood, make sure it is in reverse. Use the chisel to carve away recesses in the wood leaving the standing wood to be inked. Remember the wood left raised will leave a a mark on your paper, so think in terms of the negative space.

Carve out your drawing

When carving into the wood different movements will create different cuts into the wood and thus different effects in your image, experiment and find your style. Carefully carve out your image using the bladed chisel at first to cut into the wood, then use the V chisel to open up these lines. Once you have created a thick enough line you can use the U chisel to remove larger areas of wood. Remember going with the grain will be a lot easier than going against it. The wood might even have some surprise knots in it which you will have to work around, don't worry though, this is all part of the chart of woodblock printing.

Ink your carving

Once you have created your carving its time to ink up. Put a small blob of ink on a piece of glass or any other easy to clean surface, you won't need a lot of ink and you can always ad more. Next roll your ink roller over it, back and forth until the ink becomes tacky. Then begin rolling the ink over your carving, covering it in a thin even layer of ink.

Print your carving into an image on paper

When the image is well covered carefully lay you paper over the inked image, take care to not move it once it is in position. Then secure the paper in place with drawing pins.

Next take the underside of your wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease and rub the paper into the carving, covering the entire area of the image. When the image has been rubbed evenly over carefully lift of the paper and put it on the wall to to dry and admire! 

There we have it, your very first woodblock print. From here on out you can continue to experiment and gain more experience as you go, and remember have fun!

If you'd like to have me teach you first hand how to print in one of my classes you can sign up here. The course are set in a lovely outdoor venue and we provide lunch, tea and cake. I hope to see you there.

You can sign up here.