October 15, 2015

Chapter Three [The Technique of the Color Woodcut]


Chapter III



Japanese papers are the only suitable papers obtainable at present. They are made expressly for hand printing, and are tough enough to withstand hard usage in a damp condition, a quality imparted by the long fibre from which they are manufactured. Of these Hosho is the most venerable. It is made from fibre taken from young mulberry shoots, and may be recognized by the water-mark-lines, roughly one inch apart, covering the whole sheet. It is not so tough as Torinoko, a paper designed to hold up under the protracted processes of reproduction practised in Japan; which sometimes involve an extraordinary number of printings. Torinoko is manufactured from fibres of a species of mallow. Its surface is glossier and more perfect than that of Hosho, and it is usually heavier. The difference in texture of printed surfaces on these papers makes this description necessary. With Hosho, pigment apparently remains on the surface, though actually it penetrates the paper. With Torinoko pigments become incorporated with the paper to a greater extent, so much so that it is often impossible to move them once printed. The best period of Japanese color-prints was pre-Torinoko. A number of artists still prefer Hosho, the whiter paper; it is by no means superseded.

The hard grained surface of European etching or drawing papers takes an unpleasant mottled impression —one spotted with white, or whatever color the paper may be —an effect which the pseudo-craftsman often describes as atmospheric, and similar to that resulting from a badly prepared wood-surface which is covered with holes and indentations. But occasionally a printmaker makes a brave effort to use it.

The satin texture of printed pigment, discernible in good prints, can be attained only by the use of a perfect wood surface, Japanese paper properly sized, pigments ground in water and applied with paste, and much experience. If you examine the back of such a print you will see that the pigment penetrates the paper, and seems to have become a part of it.

A certain amount of size may be soaked out of European papers it is true, but this leaves them too fragile to handle in a damp condition. They are made up of too short fibres.

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