Friday, September 11, 2009

Registration Guide for Woodcut Printmaking

My student Debby's wood block in the registration guide

In college, I didn't learn how to register paper properly when printing wood cuts, so over the years, I've tried various methods I saw in books, and modified them for my own use. Through trial and error, my registration system has evolved to this current version. I hope this will be of help to other printmakers looking for a way to register their prints.

  • A piece of thin but sturdy drawing paper is used as a base for the guide. It should be slightly larger than your wood block to accommodate the guide.
  • Build the guide on the upper right hand corner. The woodblock is 1/4 inch thick, the same thickness as foam core. If your wood is thicker, build up layers of foam core or mat board to reach the same height as the wood.
  • Place the wood block on the base paper, and draw a mechanical pencil line around it. Glue down strips of foam core as stops for the wood block outside of this line. Make sure they are placed at a perfect ninety degree angle, and fit snug against the wood block. If there is any wiggle room between the guide and the block, the registration will most likely be off when printing.
  • Next determine how much margin you would like between the image to be printed and the edge of the paper. In this photo, it was 2 1/2 inches at the top, and 1 1/2 inches on the side. The dimensions were a little strange in order to maximize one large sheet of paper cut down for four prints.
  • To make the paper stop, glue down foam core strips overlapping your margin line. Draw the margin line on the foam core strip, making sure it is a perfect ninety degree angle, and is lined up with the corner of the wood block stop. On the outside of this line, glue a strip of mat board. When printing, the edge of the printing paper will push up against these stops to keep it in place.
  • This system requires the paper to be cut with a straight edge at a ninety degree angle. If a torn edge on the paper is desired, make the paper margin much larger than needed, and tear it down to size after the print is dry. A torn or deckled edge would not work well with this system since it has such an irregular edge.
  • To use the guide, place it on the press bed, place the inked block in the corner of the wood block stop, and then gently place the paper against the paper stop, carefully lower down on the block, and run it through the press.

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