Woodblock printing is one of the earliest methods of printing that uses engraved woodblocks to print letters and images. The technique dates back to ninth-century China, the origin of some of the earliest known woodblocks.
Woodblocks, today, are commonly made from the lumber of fruit-bearing trees, like cherry and pear trees. These wood types are known to be useful for creating engravings with rich detail. Other wood types like linden and poplar are easier to cut but produce more splinters. Plywood is also used in modern woodblocks.
Woodblocks are commonly used as a form of relief painting. The engravings are painted and then pressed with paper. Some techniques apply the paint to the engravings using a roller. Asian woodblocks use a different technique; the artist applies the watercolors using a brush before rubbing the block onto a dry or moist paper.
While woodblock printing has its origins in China, it took until the middle of the 14th century for the printing technique to reach Europe. The prints made from this technique were originally used for religious art and books. A distinct style later developed at the end of the High Gothic Period that utilized frequent lines in the imagery. This style continued for many years, as the illustrations of many books used this line-heavy style. Etching soon replaced woodblock printing in the 16th century, but the technique was revived in the 20th century and it continues to be used by artists today.