Difference Between Engraving & Woodcutting


Wooden relief art varieties such as woodcutting and wood engraving are printmaking techniques that date back hundreds of years to the beginnings of movable type and early printing presses, such as Gutenberg's. These two techniques vary only in minor ways, but those differences create a marked variance in final result.


  • Woodcutting is the term for a carving made from a block of wood that was sawed along the grain, but it also refers to the resulting print. The term is colloquially applied to any print made from wood, but truly applies only to those made from wooden blocks that have a lengthwise grain visible. The creation of a woodcut is basic: a pattern is drawn on a block of wood, and the negative space areas are cut away, leaving only the parts that will be inked or painted in relief. Woodcutting is the oldest known printmaking method.

Wood Engraving

  • Wood engraving is the term for a carving made from a block of hardwood that is sawed across the grain. As with woodcuts, the term also applies to the resulting print. Wood engraving is newer than woodcutting, dating to the 18th century.

Differences in Technique and Tools

  • The two main differences between wood engraving and woodcutting are where the engraving is executed and what tools are used. The technique for wood engraving is virtually the same as woodcutting, but because working across the grain presents a harder surface for engraving, the procedure is more difficult. However, it is more likely to produce more detailed results due to the ability to create finer carvings. The tools differ in their origins: Woodcutting uses more coarse tools, such as chisels, gouges, and knives; wood engraving utilizes finer jewelry and metal engraving tools, such as the burin.

Difference in Usage of Wood Engraving and Woodcutting

  • Woodcuts were used in medieval Europe before the printing press for printing on cloth, but once movable type became common, they were often incorporated as both illustrations and lettering. Wood engraving was primarily used in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was a common technique for use in journalism and book publishing. Once photography became the preferred medium for publishing, however, wood engraving faded into the background but continued to be used in expensive books and original prints.

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  • Photo Credit wooden box (with clipping path) image by SBB from Fotolia.com
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