04 July 2005
What Is Moku Hanga?
Moku hanga is the Japanese term for woodblock print (moku means wood and hanga means print). Woodblock printing was brought to Japan in the 8th century by Buddhists from China and was first used to reproduce religious texts. After a time colors began to be added by hand and then, as woodblock printing became the primary form of commercial printing in Japan, printers began to carve blocks for each color. Japanese woodblock prints are known especially for their intense use of color and for the fact that the pigments are water-based rather than oil-based.
All that is needed to produce a Japanese style woodblock print is wood, water, pigment, paper, a few carving tools, some brushes and something to rub the paper with - simple materials that anyone can easily acquire and get started with right away. The process, however, is far from simple. It involves many steps - developing a design, transfering the design to the wood blocks, carving the blocks, choosing paper, printing the blocks - and each step introduces many variables so there are many challenges to this art form.
Traditional moku hanga differs from western style woodblock printing in several ways. Water-borne pigments are used rather than oil-based or even water-based printing inks and the pigment is brushed onto the block rather than applied with rollers. Pigments are then applied to the paper by hand using a baren rather than a mechanical press.
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