What is Relief Engraving? A Look at the Process:

Inking the Block, by Johanna Mueller

Traditionally, these prints would be called  “wood engravings.” A wood engraving is done on the end grain (end with the rings, much harder than the plank or long grain cut of a tree.) But alas, these prints are not carved into wood, but a plastic material that is much more economical and better for the environment than chopping down hardwood trees.  

Tools and the Block

Eye of the Dog, Carving Process by Johanna Mueller

Each mark is made with an engraving burin, a small metal tool that can also carve copper, zinc or silver. The surface of the carved plate is rolled with ink, so that the upper surface is in relief to the lower.  Every mark that appears “white” is carved out and the paper tone comes through, and every mark that appears “black” is what is left on the surface to be inked. 

Process Carving Blocks by Johanna Mueller

A variety of carving tools are used for creating various marks on the block. The block is stained red, so that the carved lines are clearly white, and the original drawing lines are black. In theory, if the black drawn lines are avoided, the background will be cut away, and the lines will remain on the surface and print when pressure is applied.


Agave Print Process Image by Johanna Mueller

The inked plate is hand cranked through one of my printing presses.  The act of pulling the paper off of the plate makes each print a “hand-pulled print.” I never duplicate any of my hand pulled prints with digital prints, keeping their integrity as original print editions. Most of my editions are 100 or under, and all are hand-pulled.

Making Mixed Media Monoprints

Zen Mixed Media Collage by Johanna Mueller

Many of my colorful pieces are called “Mixed Media Monoprints.” Since these pieces combine unique processes such as traditional drawing and painting methods, they are one of a kind (mono), and they contain elements of the printmaking process (print), hence mixed media monoprints.

Multiple plates are inked and printed, then cut carefully and collaged in compositional formation. The result is a delicate and detailed mixed media artwork.

Want to Learn More About Printmaking?

Johanna Mueller's Wonderhand stuido

Come visit my studio!

I teach one-on-one printmaking lessons and group workshops at my studio, Wonderhand Studios in Greeley, CO.

Contact me for more information or to schedule a studio visit!