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Bearded Iris Woodblock Carving

Updated on November 7, 2020
Bearded Iris
Bearded Iris

Iris Inspiration

A row of beautiful purple and white Bearded Iris grew on the side of my home in Madison, Wisconsin. Inspired, I sat down and drew a line drawing of a group of them. Wanting to see the flowers in blocks of color I decided a woodblock carving was the way to go. I found a perfect piece of wood to work on and the process continued.

The next step was to transfer the drawing onto the block of wood. I did this by first tracing the original drawing onto tracing paper. I then laid a sheet of carbon paper face down onto the wood. The tracing paper went on top of that and with a pencil I traced over all the lines checking occasionally to be sure the carbon was reaching the wood. The carbon and tracing papers were then removed. I used a permanent marker to make the lines even darker and filled in the solid areas to be printed.

Iris Line Drawing
Iris Line Drawing
Woodblock Carving of Bearded Iris's
Woodblock Carving of Bearded Iris's

Carving a Woodblock

Carving a woodblock takes time and patience. I originally learned how to carve woodblocks back in high school during a printmaking course. The first thing taught was never to carve towards yourself to avoid injury. Second to carve with the grain of the wood, not against it otherwise it will crack or splinter. Last of all, only carve away the areas that you want to be white. The wood left over is the area to be printed.

Speedball Woodblock Ink & Brayer
Speedball Woodblock Ink & Brayer

Printing Process

I used sheet of plastic to roll the ink onto but glass can work as well. It doesn't take much ink to make a print so use it sparingly. The brayer I rolled the ink onto the woodblock with was a Speedball brayer. Roll the brayer back and forth over the ink until it's tacky before applying it to the woodblock. If the ink is too thick and sloppy it won't roll smoothly onto the surface causing ink to drip into the areas you want to remain white.

When your roller is evenly covered with ink start inking your woodblock. The wood will soak up the ink the first time so you'll need to go over it twice before printing.

Next lay your paper on top of the woodblock. I like using a Japanese Rice paper to print with because it absorbs the ink nicely. I then use a flat wooden spoon to gently rub the paper to transfer the ink. Keeping the spoon primarily horizontal will prevent it from accidentally digging into the paper.

Passion for Printing

Creating multiple prints of an original idea is exciting. The fact that you can print one image in different colors and on a wide variety of papers is also appealing. The entire process starting with an idea, to making a drawing, carving a woodblock and printing is so rewarding. Each step has a life of its own and builds up to the next step. This is truly a special art form to be passed on.

© 2012 Laura Ross


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    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      8 years ago

      I'm glad you enjoyed it!:) It's always interesting to take something you see and make it into something else that is still recognizable.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      wow. this is really cool ! you made it look easy, although I know it's a real skilled art -- well done !!!!

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      8 years ago

      Maren - I hope your friend enjoys this hub! I have a sister named Iris and have always loved her name:)

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I am going to send this link to a good friend with a granddaughter named Iris. Great idea and explanations!

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      8 years ago

      Thank you so much SidKemp! Sometimes the process for me is my favorite part of making any kind of art. Glad you stopped by:)

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      8 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Wow! I don't know if I'll ever make time for this, but just witnessing your process is wonderful And lovely results!

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      8 years ago

      I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. I am so looking forward to spring and seeing these Iris's coming up again. They bring me such joy! Thank you for your kind words and hoping you are doing well:)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Such a neat look at woodblock printing. Thanks for sharing these details. Your skill created a beautiful piece.

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      9 years ago

      Since you've done a little block printing in the past you'll most likely enjoy carving in wood. An added bonus to carving wood blocks is the wonderful scent the wood gives off while your carving it. My grandfather was a carpenter so I grew up smelling wood shavings and wading through saw dust in his work shop. I've always loved that smell.

      So glad this hub inspired you to try it! Thanks for your votes and sharing too! Much appreciated:)

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Oh wow, your wood block print is just beautiful, you have captured that iris magic and I love the colour variation. I have dabbled a little with lino block printing, but am inspired to try a wood carving print. Thank you for the inspiration and knowhow and especially for sharing your beautiful iris print. Top hub, my votes to you Green Art and sharing.

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      9 years ago

      Glad you liked the iris hub Dolores! It's neat that you've done some linoleum cuts in the past too. A fun art form to be sure.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I remember making linoleum cuts years ago and certainly enjoyed it. This looks so cool! You did a beautiful job with the iris. The idea that you can create one wood block to make a huge variety of prints, in different colors sounds intriguing. Must vote up!

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      9 years ago

      Peggy, so glad you stopped by fellow carver. I started out with linoleum cuts before the woodcuts. It was an easy transition and a good way to learn how to carve. So happy you like the prints. Thanks for your vote up too!

    • Green Art profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura Ross 

      9 years ago

      Thanks Nell, it does take patience but it's something you can set aside and come back to when you have time. So glad to introduce you to something new too. Thanks for the vote up and sharing. Much appreciated, Laura

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have done linocuts but not woodblock prints. The idea is the same just using a different medium in which to carve. Your irises turned out great! Voted up and useful.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Absolutely beautiful and so clever! This must take a lot of patience and a very steady hand, but the result is wonderful! Its something that I have never heard of before, really interesting and fascinating, voted up all the way! and shared, nell


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