A Joint Effort Between Artists, Carvers and Printers
An ukiyo-e woodblock print is not something created by just one artist. It takes the cooperation of three people — one to draw the design, one to carve it, and one to print the design — to finish one work.
The eshi (artist) sketches the design with sumisen (ink lines).
The horishi (carver) pastes the sketch on a block made of wild cherry wood and carves out the design. This block, called an omohan (key block), is only for printing the black outline.
Other blocks are carved out, one for each color; these are called irohan (color plates).
The surishi (printer) applies color on the blocks under the artist's supervision.
Each block has a marking on the same spot relative to the finished picture. The printer uses these markings to make sure the paper is set on the block in the right position, so that the colors don't go out of place.
Colors are applied in the order of lightest to darkest and smallest area to largest area as a general rule.
Gradations are added to give the finishing touch.
(The Adachi Foundation for the Preservation of Woodcut Printing)