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Create a classic woodcut in 3 quick steps

Added on Thursday 17th of June 2010 09:29 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photographs are an excellent resource for complementing text in brochures, newsletters, and other printed works. But for those times when you want a more artistic look, this authentic woodcut technique might suit you well.


To create a woodcut in Photoshop, we’ll:

• Set up the layers and apply a blending mode in preparation for this technique.

• Use the High Pass filter to assist with the woodcut outlines.

• Apply a Threshold adjustment to control how much black appears in the image.


Woodcuts are traditional prints made popular by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Artists create woodcuts by carving out drawings on blocks of birch, pine, or cherry wood using special carving tools. Once an artist makes the carving, he applies ink to the surface of the block. Then, he places a piece of paper on the inked wood block, and applies pressure. When he removes the paper, voilà—it’s a woodcut print. Does this sound like quite a bit of work? It is, but for those with time and patience, it’s an enjoyable craft. However, if you don’t have much of either, you can achieve a similar woodcut look easily with Photoshop, as shown in Figure A.



To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file woodcut.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file shown in Figure B. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)



Step 1: Prep the file

With your image file open, you’re ready to prepare the file for this technique. This will ensure that the layers in your document are set up correctly. Traditionally, woodcut prints are black and white—although the printmaker can use any color ink he chooses. There are also a few techniques for adding color to woodcut prints, one of which is to paint the print with watercolors when th...