Instructables

Woodblock Printing with an Epilog Mini/Helix Co2 Laser Cutter

Picture of Woodblock Printing with an Epilog Mini/Helix Co2 Laser Cutter
This is how to build a simple wood block print set using some 1/4" board and a laser cutter. I'm an art history nerd and an artist, so I know that the best way to learn something is while making a fun project. You can follow the steps or you can read along and learn a few things about woodblock printing through history.

Woodblock printing is an ancient method for duplicating images on cloth, paper, books, scrolls, or other materials. Examples of woodblock prints can be found all over the world from many different historical periods; 2,000 year old scroll prints from China and woodcuts created in the 20th century by Pablo Picasso— who was better known for his impressionist murals and oil paintings— are all evidence of the ingenuity of craftsmen to fill the demand for beautifully decorative art pieces.

I made it at TechShop!
 
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Step 1: Gather your materials and prepare your files.

Picture of Gather your materials and prepare your files.
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For this project you will need:

•   1/4 inch MDF
•   double sided tape or glue
•   1/4 hardwood or plywood boards (different types create different textures)
•   paints or printing ink
•   paper for printing
•   materials for mixing and storing your pigments
•   a large spoon or smooth tool to rub the back of your piece

•   access to a laser cutter for 2 hours
•   Corel Draw or Illustrator to prepare your files

Woodblock prints are made by layering ink or other pigments onto paper. Typically each color is applied one at a time, so a complicated piece of art will require several wood cuts, and a jig (use the mdf to make the jig) to line up or register your papers. My jig is a simple frame to place each block in with another L-shaped piece of MDF glued on to use as a registration guide.

Prepare your files in your graphic program of choice and send them to the leaser cutter. Remember that all your art needs to be reversed to print the right way onto paper.

Some of the most well known examples of woodblock printing were made by Japanese artists during the Edo period (1603-1868), a time when the rapid expansion of a prosperous Japanese middle class increased the demand for popular arts and entertainment. The Great Wave of Kanagawa, by the artist Hokusai,— who printed dramatic scenes of his homeland, many times featuring the distinct shape of Mt. Fuji on the skyline— might be the most recognized work of Japanese Edo period woodblock printing. 
great idea! I'll have to try this sometime.