Engraving on wood cut longitudinally
The technique for making woodcuts by the relief process was discovered by the Chinese.
The principle of the woodcut is similar to the workings of a rubber stamp. This technique involves use of wood block on which the artist applies the image and then prepares as a relief matrix. He cuts the parts that should not be printed, leaving raised (or in relief) the image that is to be printed, which means the areas to show 'white' are cut away with a chisel leaving the image to show in 'black' at the original surface level. The block was cut along the grain of the wood. It is only necessary to ink the block and bring it into firm and even contact with the paper to achieve an acceptable print. The content would of course print "in reverse" or mirror-image, a further complication when text was involved. Surfaces retains the patterns of the construction of the fiber, which appear in the finished print. Only one or two colors can be placed at the same time on the wooden shape. For more color must carve an additional block for each color and must fit exactly with all the other blocks.
It is the oldest form of printmaking, and appeared in China about a thousand years before the first prints ever appeared in Europe. Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper.
As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220, and from Egypt to the 4th century. Most artists in the thirteenth and fourteenth century who made woodcuts remain anonymous. Block-books, where both text and images are cut on a single block for a whole page, appeared in Europe in the 1460s as a cheaper alternative to books printed by movable type. These are different from woodcuts illustrated books using images, perhaps with a title, cut in a single block and used as a book illustration with the adjacent text printed using movable type. While in Europe movable metal type soon became cheap enough to replace woodblock printing for the reproduction of text, woodcuts remained a major way to reproduce images in illustrated works of early modern European printing. The method was also used extensively for printing playing cards.