Tuesday, August 2, 2011

IMC 2011: Colors

Color Grid; moku hanga overlaps: Red/Yellow/Blue/Green

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 1st International Conference of Moku Hanga (IMC 2011); a conference of international artists, artisans, scholars and historians of Japanese woodblocks that was held in Japan in the cities of Kyoto and Awaji Island in early June. I took some photos, but was often too absorbed in what was happening to take decent pictures. In the second half of the conference on Awaji Island; A demonstration of contemporary woodblock prints and printmaking by a group of Japanese publishers and professional printers included these prints of a simple demonstration of the effects of overlapping colors.

This color exercise was one I had long hoped to do myself and was happy to see so clearly illustrated. Special thanks to Lawrence Pinto, another conference participant who was in this session who had the good sense to take these photographs, and the courtesy to send me JPEG copies to share.

Four blocks were carved in a grid pattern with three primary colors and one secondary color. They were carved in such a way as to show the effects of overlapping color. Each of the original block colors falls on one of the corner squares in the composite image above.

Since traditional moku hanga, japanese woodblocks are printed with transparent, water-based colors, the paper shows through the printed color giving them a luminosity they wouldn't have if they were opaque and simply reflecting the ambient light.
Transparent blue over yellow will give green, red over yellow, orange; et cetera.
What isn't easily imagined is what happens when you change the sequence of color; yellow over blue will yield a different effect than blue over yellow and in this particular exercise the forth block was green; the effects and browns/greys obtained would be different if it had been orange or purple.
Similarly a cool red vs a warm red, yellow or blue will shift everything again towards a different green/brown/grey.
The last two illustrations are the code for the grid so you can change the colors and try it for yourself.

P.S. The code illustrated in the last two pictures will give you a similar print but different from the one actually illustrated: the four pure colors run across the top of the graph in the map, but on the opposite corners in the actual print.


  1. Awesome!! Thanks to you and Larry for the pix.

  2. Two things I noted as I was posting:

    Just how "white" the off-white, unprinted square becomes when placed next to other colors-- and
    printing off shina, how the grain of the red block still shows through in the purple and brown squares of the upper R.

  3. Clever... a bit of planning and what wonderful results. Your registration looks great.

  4. Whoa! Where was I 'cause I missed this one! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  5. this is SO SO SO interesting! Thank you very much for sharing.. I definitely want to try this exercise, maybe it can help improve my awful printing technique! : )