Making a Moku Hanga Print 1

You want to know, how to use the japanese technique of woodcut, based on watercolour? Here you have an example, step by step:
Traditionally everything starts with a brushdrawing. It defines the outlines of every colour area. At first this drawing is cut and printed several times. These prints are used to make the plates for printing the colours.
I start with a line drawing, that defines the outlines of the coloured areas, but later these lines are not printed.

From this drawing I make as much copies as colours are planned. With a highlighter I colour the areas for each plate. Here two examples from all in all seven plates:


These sheets were to small, so I copy and enlarge each of them. In the picture above the dotted areas shall be lighter using a colour gradation.
At the right border you see some marks. They are important to register the different plates so that they fit together.
In the next step, the copies of the colour separations are glued to the wood face down. Because here I don´t need fine lines I can use rather soft poplar plywood. For more detailed work I would need lime tree plywood, alder or most suitable cherry.

Because of the “false” glueing face down, the picture is now back-to-front on the plate and will have the correct orientation after printing.

Of course now you can´t see the picture any more. Therefore the paper is being rubbed off with a finger and some water, only leaving the drawing. In the traditional japanese technique a very thin washi paper was used, but a cheap copy paper will do very well for this purpose.


Before printing all the paper has to be removed. So I use a mixture of rice paste and wood glue. It is bonding the drawing well but can be removed with some rubbing under running water.

Later the colours must fit correctly. Therefore the “Kento”-marks are used. At the long side of the picture at the right edge (for right handed people) and some centimers from the left edge two notches are cut into the wood. During printing the paper is put into these notches. The position of the notches is already marked on the colour separation papers.




Now the wood around the colour areas has to be removed, at least for 3 cm.
At first I make a cut with a knive (Hangi toh) along the lines. The blade is held at a small angle away from the area, because a vertical edge would be less stable and would collect ink at the edge.

After the first cut, a second in the opposite direction is made, so that a small chip of wood is cut out and a v-shaped groove is made.

In the next step the remaining wood is removed with another tool, a gauge. The edges to the not printing parts have to be very smooth, otherwise there would be marks in the paper after printing.

The next part is coming soon!