Woodcut is one of the oldest methods of printing illustrations. In its most common and basic form, the print is only in two colors, the background color (usually white) and the printing color (often black). No shades of grey can be achieved; woodcuts are therefore maximum in contrast. Woodcuts are also generally coarse and allow for less detail than other printmaking techniques, such as engravings or etchings.
Traditionally, seasoned hardwood is used, such as apple, beech or sycamore. The image cut in the block is a negative and a mirror image of the resulting print. The printmaker draws the image on the block and then cuts away those parts that are to be left white, using tools such as carving knives, gouges, or chisels. The lines that are cut away, as well as lines that are left uncut, can vary in thickness.
When finished (or to make a proof to check the progress of the work), ink is rolled onto the surface of the block. The ink will stick only to those areas that have been left uncut. Then the printer presses the inked block against a piece of paper. Only the inked parts of the block's surface will leave a mark, while the areas that have been cut away will appear white.