Acquire a wood block. One of the best and oldest substrates is a block of wood. If you will be using a printing press, you want something very flat and very strong that is still easy to carve into.
Plywood & MDF (medium density fiberboard) are simple and affordable options that can be found at a local hardware store. Linoleum blocks are another good option and can be purchased at any art store.
Draw a sketch. It is important to think about the size of your carving tool (and your block size) when you are drawing your image.
Also, think about your tones when drawing your image. The closer your lines are, the darker the tone. The farther apart, the lighter the tone.
Transfer the drawing. You can either redraw your image on the wood block or transfer it with transfer paper.
Transfer paper is sold commercially or you can make your own with a blank sheet of paper and pencil.
Once you have your drawing transferred and/or sketched in, use a sharpie to go over your pencil lines and finalize your drawing.
For this guide we are using Flexcut gouges. Keep in mind the amount of area you need to carve out and the size of your lines.
When carving its important to keep a few things in mind:
1. Always carve alway from yourself. Carving towards yourself may seem more comfortable but it is never a good idea.
2. Always carve on a flat, sturdy surface. Wobble tables and laps can lead to accidents.
Proof your piece. It's always a good idea to make a quick proof of your print while you are working to gauge your progress.
If working with a wood block, it is not a bad idea to coat your block with a thin layer of polyurethane before printing it.
Polyurethane can be purchased at your local hardware store. Remember to use a very thin coat and read all the directions on the container.
Print your block! (Keep an eye out for our upcoming guide to printing by press or by hand, pros and cons examined!)