What is Block Printing?

What is Block Printing?

The oldest type of printing which is in trend for many centuries is Block Printing. There is much evidence that shows that block printing existed from the 5th century but working on block printing started in the 15th century. It is popular in all corners of the world but its roots are in India, Japan & China. Hand block print is widely popular among several people around the world.

Block printing has a very long history and a variety of techniques are used for it but the most popular technique is one in which carved material is immersed in ink and then the image is transferred on a piece of paper & fabric. It can be used on different types of materials like wood, rubber, or linoleum. I prefer linoleum for work.


Printing done on images using this technique are very bold if compared with other styles of printmaking. As carving is done by hands-on the blocks so texture has more prints and detail is very less. If you use a knife for carving there may be a possibility that blocks can be carved with detail.

Another name for block printing is relief printing as the ink used for printing leaves texture which is raised on a piece of paper. Note one thing that letterpress and block printing both are different as in letterpress enough pressure is applied on the image so that an indent can be left on the paper. The hand is used in block printing due to which ink sets on the surface which gives raised look texture to the material.

Process of Printing

The initial step involved in printing is designing the sketch. It is very essential that the image should be reversed if the text is used as the image gets reversed on the block. Once the image gets ready it is then transferred on material which is linoleum so that I get an outline of where carving has to do.

The next step involved in designing of carve. I always do one thing that part which doesn’t need to be printed is carved away as ink is applied on the surface which is raised for the printing of design. The surface which remains untouched will be imprinted on the paper. Time taken for carving is not fixed depending upon the measurement & details of the image. The time required for carving can be an hour, a lot of weeks, or months.

A variety of knives is used by me for different purposes like a small tipped knife is used for carving the details & its carving. Larger knives are used to cut the background. Patience is required to carve the block as if the hand slips out the whole piece can be ruined. With proper practice, it can be learned how much pressure is required to carve and try to learn some best techniques for complex designs.

When a block gets carved excess part is trimmed out using scissors so that a straight edge look can be given after this piece gets ready for print. A variety of inks is available in the market but they should be tested before using to get the best 1. I generally use oil-based type ink as they are good for fabric & paper both. You can go for other options also.

Whenever I go for the printing process ink is squeezed in small amounts by me in a glass or different plexiglass piece and then rolled out using a roller. This helps me in getting a thin and even layer so that ink can be applied properly on the block.

Then the ink is rolled on the block but I always make sure that block should be thin having an even layer. Then block is taken by me and I pressed it on the piece of paper or other fabric. Pressing can be done either by hands, rolling pin, printing pin, or printing barren. (Which is a tool used for applying pressure on the block) Always remember that pressure should be even.

The important part in block printing is pressure should always be even as if the pressure will be uneven then in some parts color can be dark and in some parts, it will be a fad. This requires practice so that you can become perfect.

It takes several days for the ink to become dry just like another process of printing. You have to wait for long before using the prints. Ink based on oil takes time for drying from 2 days to many weeks while water-type inks dry a little bit faster. Inks are ready in such a way that they can dry slowly which helps you in the printing process when ink is not dry. If ink gets dry a little bit faster you will get uneven details coverage.

Tips & Advice

Block printing is my favorite job and I loved it as simple, elegant, bold & beautiful designs can be made. It requires a lot of patience & steps to get the desired block. This technique is good for images that required only little color & have less detail. It gets complex when there is much small text having fine details.

Block printing can be applied on any type of surface irrespective of size or texture. Any type of material can be used for printing like fabric, wood, paper, or canvas. There is no need to worry about how it will fit. To fit it you can use a printer or pressing press.


Block printing is a very good technique for printing beautiful designs on paper or fabric. Hand block print is famous for its variety and exclusive range available.


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