Woodcut is a relief technique in printmaking. The artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood, typically with a sharp chisel or a gouge, and then the image at surface level is covered with ink and printed, either by hand or using a printing press. Originating in 8th century China, woodcut is regarded as the oldest printmaking technique, and in Europe, the making of woodcuts flourished from the 15th century on. This was primarily due to their use as book illustrations, and the technique was almost forgotten in the centuries following the industrial revolution. However, a new interest in imported Japanese coloured woodcuts in the late 19th century led to its resurgence on the European art scene.
Usually, blocks of hardwood cut along the grain are used in the making of woodcuts. This might present difficulties if one strives for a certain richness in detail, which is why one often carves out images with precisely simplified motifs. This makes woodcut a technique with limited possibilities. However, the use of wood is often favoured by artists, due to its structure and to the traces that the growth rings leave on the piece of paper.