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What is a Reduction Woodblock?

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

One of the print processes I use extensively is called the Reduction Process. This is where a single block is carved between printings. The printing area of the block is reduced between stages or printings.

These multiple stages of printed color are basically a value progression. Visualize a value scale with white at the bottom (#1) and black at the top (#10). In between white and block are 8 levels of gray moving from white to black. If the first color I print corresponds to a number 2 on a value chart, then the next color printed needs to be a number 4 value. A four stage reduction woodblock actually has five colors where white is the paper color and colors 2 through 5 have been printed


The first color printed has the most area in relief. This first stage is printed onto however many sheets are needed for the project. If I want extras to use as proof sheets, I need to print those as well on this first color run. Once I start to carve for the second color, I cannot print any more of the first color as that has now been destroyed.


With the first color printed, the relief areas of the block are reduced or carved away to print the next value/color. The process can be as simple as a two color reduction print which is the

demo of Santo Rubio. The demo displays each color layer separately and then printed together. I find it exciting that with two values, the image can be established and a story told. For each layer I add, more depth is added to the story


Tewa Pot is a four color reduction print created from one block. Image 1 and 2 are the first and second colors printed separately. Image 3 is the first two layers printed together. Image 4 is the third reduction printed by itself and Image 5 is the third color printed over the previous color runs. Image 6 is the forth and final reduction printed by itself and Image 7 is the completed image.

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