What is a printmakers block?

A printmakers block with ink applied ready for use on the press.
What is a printmakers block? The word 'block' is used a lot on this blog, but what precisely does it mean?

Block printing

The word 'block' in printmaking is relatively easy to explain: it is a block of material to which ink is applied before it is placed on the press, along with a piece of paper. A great deal of pressure is applied by the press to the three (block, ink and paper) so that the ink transfers from the block to the paper.

A block can be in a variety of materials, but often means lino or wood. Just about any material capable of withstanding the pressure of the printmakers press, while not damaging either the press itself or the paper, can be used.

Marks are made in the block of material to create an image. Areas where ink is required and not required are dictated by these marks. Ink can be rolled on to the block, or rubbed into it instead, depending on the technique being used by the printmaker. A print might require several separate blocks making or it may require only one throughout the whole process of creating the print – regardless of the number of colours.