To create a three color woodcut, I :


1.  Draw an image.


2.  Trace the image in mirror image.


3.  Trace the mirror image onto three wood boards

(I use Luan for its softness and size).

One board will be for the yellow layer, one for the red and one for the blue.


4. Cut away from the top layer of the yellow board all the areas that have no yellow in them.  Whatever has been shaved from the surface will be white on the print, and whatever is left will be yellow.


 If the area is a color that has some yellow (for instance a blue object in shadow, where the yellow and red are used to darken the blue) you can cut away part of the yellow by hatching--removing stripes of yellow wood and leaving slices.


5.  Repeat this process for the red plate and the blue plate.


6. Roll yellow ink onto the yellow plate with an ink brayer.  Press a piece of paper against the plate and rub the back with a wooden spoon

 (or use a printing  press.)


7.  Roll red ink onto the red plate, and press the same piece of paper onto that plate, being careful to line up the paper and plate so that the red and yellow register together.


8.  Repeat for the blue plate.




This picture shows me pulling off the red layer, on paper that already had the yellow layer printed.



Woodcuts are labor intensive. You produce one because an image has impressed you. Light and shadow has carved a pattern, texture has emerged from surface, the curve and highlight of a cheekbone has contrasted with dark hair behind it, and you felt an impact. Remembering the impression you realize you want to live with the image for a few months, commit it to wood and paper, and eventually have it on your wall. This is art: awareness, emotion, processing and re-creation.


Woodcut processing forces you to make small decisions, slowly. It allows you to work with color, and with surface coverage in a dry way, so that edges remain hard and contrasts severe. Woodcut allows you to repeat the image, running off 10 or 20 copies, which feels powerful.


Work in the woodcut medium is like writing a computer program. You control, only indirectly, what the output will eventually be. You decide presence or absence (0 or 1) for each color, for each pixel of wood. Printing is the running of the program, and at the end, as you pull the paper from the last plate, The image is there—showing, when successful, the drama that you detected when you first saw the physical event.


Printing feels like magic. A yellow layer is straight forward. Red printed on top offers reds, yellows, oranges and white. They are the color you've layed out, and look as you expect. Add the blue layer, however, and the picture changes to full color. Not just the colors of your ink are there (red, yellow and blue) but colors that you didn't lay down emerge as well—browns and golds, black and assorted greens. The richness emerges, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.






The Prints

The Process

The Artist



Copyright 2015-2023, Craig Mindell, All Rights Reserved