Sketch to woodcut in an hour

original wood block sketchinverse scanned imagelaser cut wood block

I took a recent watercolour sketch and turned it into a wood block ready for printing within an hour.
This was an exercise in using technology to retain creative spontaneity –  I usually use the computer to neaten and ‘vectorise’ my initial artwork, creating digital image files that I can use for pattern making, but in this case, I made a quick watercolour sketch, scanned it, and saved the file as a bitmap, which I then took straight to our small laser cutter machine to create a woodcut for printing.

The only digital changes I made were to de saturate the colour from the image to make it black and white, heighten the contrast so the lines would stand out, and then created an inverse image to ready the file for the laser cutter to make a printing block.

laser cut wood blocks

I used 90mm x 90mm x 40mm dressed pine for the woodblock, with a thin cutting depth of approx 1 mm, I find this is deep enough for a very thin layer of printing ink to adhere to the wood when applied with a brayer, and this creates a nice crisp image when printed. The thickness of the block also helps when applying pressure to the block during the print process.

wood block  and printwood block  and print

I do respect the hand cut nature of a wood block or a lino tile, and understand that the creative element of cutting for its own sake is entirely removed when using a laser cutter. But at the same time I’m incredibly excited to be able to retain that initial loose, spontaneous first sketch, right through to the printing stage, without it being refined, overworked and compromised during what can be a multi step process..

I intend to create a run of (non limited) prints from the woodblock on heavy paper, I may leave them black on white, or hand tint them using watercolours. Here are some of my first experiments.

leaves-block-blackleaves-block-coloured-2leaves-block-coloured-3leaves-block-coloured-1