Mokuhanga means 'woodblock print' in Japanese. This traditional Japanese printing method emerged in the 17th century. An example of an early Japanese print is shown Right.
Today this technique is being explored by many contemporary printmakers. A waterbased printmaking method, mokuhanga involves planning a graphic image, transferring the outlines to one or more woodblocks, carving and printing it.
An effective registration method using carved notches in the wood called "kento", ensures that the separated colours fall exactly where you want them.
Printing using a baren on Japanese washi papers with gouache pigments give mokuhanga it's pronounced characteristics: the colours are absorbed into the paper as a graphic stain thanks to the long fibres characteristice of washi.
Many printing variations are achievable with slight adjustments of water, use or not of rice paste, and local applications of pigment. Essential to this process are appropriate materials, including imported Japanese plywood (shina), waterbased pigments, washi and special brushes to apply the colour. It is very different from Western style woodcut that uses oil-based inks. A press is not required.
A landscape print by ukiyo-e artist Utagawa
Hiroshige 1797 -1858
Printing demonstration of a contemporary mokuhanga print.