Woodcut, a type of relief print, is the earliest printmaking technique. It was probably first developed as a means of printing patterns on cloth, and by the 5th century was used in China for printing text and images on paper. Woodcuts of images on paper developed around 1400 in Japan, and slightly later in Europe. These are the two areas where woodcut has been most extensively used purely as a process for making images without text.
The artist either draws a design directly on a plank of wood, or transfers an drawing done on paper to a plank of wood. Traditionally, the artist then handed the work to a technician, who then uses sharp carving tools to carve away the parts of the block that will not receive ink. In the Western tradition, the surface of the block is then inked with the use of a brayer; however in the Japanese tradition, woodblocks were inked with a brush. Then a sheet of paper, perhaps slightly damp, is placed over the block. The block is then rubbed with a baren or spoon, or is run through a printing press. If the print is in color, separate blocks can be used for each color, or a technique called reduction printing can be used.