How is a woodcut print different from an engraving?

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  1. A woodcut print falls under the category called relief printmaking whereas engraving belongs to intaglio printmaking.

    The most notable difference between the two is that a relief block is printed in much the same manner as a rubber stamp or those potato prints you did when you were in school.

    Whereas, in intaglio the lowered surfaces take the ink with the raised surface of the plate wiped clean. In other words, it is the exact opposite of relief printing.

    Intaglio, such as etching or engraving involves incising or cutting grooves and channels into the surface of the plate, usually copper or zinc. When the design is finished etching ink is applied to the surface and then wiped clean forcing the remaining ink into the incised lines on the plate.

    A sheet of dampened etching paper is placed on top and the whole affair is passed through the rollers of an etching press much like a wringer washer.

    The immense pressure causes the dampened paper to pick up the ink in the lowered sections of the plate.

    The terminology does create a bit of confusion with the term “wood engraving”. This is another form of relief printmaking.

    The term “engraving” is used to distinguish this technique from other forms of relief prints since specialized tools are used and the woodblock surface is orientated to the end grain rather than the plank grain.

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