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October 15, 2015

Chapter One – The Print [The Technique of the Color Woodcut]


GRADATIONS AND HARD EDGES

Hare by Allen W. Seaby With a full-size fragment in color

Hare by Allen W. Seaby
With a full-size fragment in color

A beautiful feature in the color wood-cut, and one unique in printing, is color gradation. The impression of wood-grain is also unique and must be considered, not only as regards texture and visibility, but for the occasional possibility of the expression of form. A soft wood, with hard annulations, such as fir, prints very dearly.

The hard edges of all cut shapes—lines as well as color masses—are not peculiar to the wood-cut, but modifications are possible, and hard edges provide the necessity for sound and simple drawing.

Mr. Seaby’s Hare admirably illustrates color gradation, achieved in the gray background by gradating color on the wood in the same way as on paper in water-color painting, and in the change from brown to white in the hare’s fur by scraping the wood with a knife, thus creating a necessary texture also.

Full-size fragment of a line block by Y. Urushibara

Full-size fragment of a line block by Y. Urushibara

In Urushibara’s line print the leaf veins are soft on one side—an effect gained by slightly bevelling the wood with a knife or with sand paper.

From Gloaming by the author

From Gloaming by the author

Local gradations are made in printing. Two brushes are sometimes used, one charged with more potent color than the other. Line blocks are nearly always printed with some variation of tone, and often in color too. The lost edges of the hair in the fragment of Gloaming were obtained by printing the dark brown wetly with a generous amount of pigment on quite damp paper, and overprinting the gray (the water), thus causing a spread and gradual dissemination of the superfluous brown.

 

 

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Full-size fragments of three color-prints showing three methods of mitigating hard edges.

Full-size fragments of three color-prints showing three methods of mitigating hard edges.

An obvious method for mitigating hard edges is to engrave shade lines as you draw them with a pen, a pencil, or an etching needle.

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