Re: Lithographs vs. Woodblocks

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Posted by hess on September 10, 1999 at 20:43:50:

In Reply to: Lithographs vs. Woodblocks posted by Kagari Ozeki on September 10, 1999 at 02:57:29:

: How do I know if I am looking at a woodblock print as opposed to a lithograph? I plan to get some of the books recommended in the Q&A and read up but any quick tips would be appreciated. I have several ukiyo-e of different sizes. From the feedback I have seen it sounds as if the ones from Uchida in Kyoto are likely authentic woodblock reprints. I also have a number of small prints that seem deisgned for tourists from the Fukui Asahido Co., Ltd in Kyoto. How do I find out if they are woodblocks or lithos? Thank you.

The easiest way is to take them to a Japanese print specialist if you want a 100% assurance of their production method.
For a beginner, the basic way to tell if you have a lithograph is to view boundaries of colored areas in the print with a magnifier (loop). If you see little diamonds or squares or repetitive geometric shapes of the colored areas, you have an offset press product. If you see a random "explosion" of color in various sizes (usually round but always small) and shapes, you have a lithograph.
A woodblock print should show "wood grain" and have some amount of bleedthrough of color to reverse (the amount of color on reverse will depend upon the quality and period of production, inks, and paper used).
Under magnification, a woodblock will appear as if it was "painted". And you should have some impression in the printed areas (from the blocks) into the paper. That is, when you run your fingers over the surface of a woodblock print, you will feel indentations that follow the outlines (keylines) of colored/printed areas. Offset press and lithographs are virtually flat.
These are the basic ways to tell and should serve as staring points only because there are variations within these guidelines (modern Japanese prints have the most exceptions). But ultimately the only correct way to learn is by touching and seeing as many woodblock prints as possible. Good luck.

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