Invented in the 15th century, the earliest printing process was woodblock printing. In this method, drawings as well as text were carved on a wooden block. Ink was applied to the raised letters and figures, and the entire block was impressed onto paper.

Also called woodcut or wood engraving, the process involves cutting away undesired wood in order to leave raised figures above the wooden block. While the artist could draw on the wood, an artisan would likely have been required to prepare the actual wood engraving, as the technique for using the knife or graver is very different from the other tools used by the artist (pen, pencil, brush, or chalk).

Early woodblocks were often hand-colored after printing, but by the mid-18th century, full color printing of woodcuts and engravings was possible.

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