Printmaking is the creation, for artistic purposes, an image on a matrix that is then transferred to a two-dimensional (flat) surface by means of ink or another form of pigmentation.
Historically, the main techniques involved are woodcut, line engraving, etching, lithography, and screen-printing but there are many others, including modern digital techniques. Normally, the print is printed on paper, but other mediums are cloth and vellum to more modern materials.
Prints in the Western tradition produced before about 1830 are known as old master prints. In Europe, from around 1400 AD woodcut, was used for master prints on paper by using printing techniques developed in the Byzantine and Islamic worlds. Michael Wolgemut improved German woodcut from about 1475, and Erhard Reuwich, a Dutchman, was the first to use cross-hatching.
In China, the art of printmaking developed 1,100 years ago as illustrations alongside text cut in woodblocks for printing on paper. The images were mainly religious but in the Song Dynasty, artists began to cut landscapes. During the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1616–1911) dynasties, the technique was perfected for both religious and artistic engravings.
Woodblock printing in Japan is a technique best known for its use in the ‘ukiyo-e’ artistic genre; however, it was also used very widely for printing illustrated books in the same period. Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries to print books but was only widely adopted in Japan during the Edo period (1603–1867).