MAU Art & Design Glossary

Woodblock Brush




The woodblock brush is used when making woodblock prints, for mixing ink, paint, or glue on the block, and spreading it out in a uniform fashion. There are two types of brush: a round one, which resembles a shoe brush, and a patterned hand brush. The round brush is used for wide areas, and the hand brush for smaller areas.

Designed to spread paint on the top of the block and wipe away excess paint collected in the indented parts of the block, the woodblock brush has bristles with strong, stiff body portions and fine, soft tips. For this reason, the brushes usually use horsehair from the mane or the tail. There are also brushes made of deer and pig hair.

Artists perform a process called hake-oroshi on new brushes or brushes where the tips have worn down. First, the tips of the bristles are burned on a hot steel plate and then soaked in hot water. Next, the brush is dried and rubbed against a sharkskin grater. This breaks up the tips of the bristles, allowing the brush to hold paint better and making it easier to spread paint on the block.

As it easy for paint and glue to get stuck near the base, make sure to wash the brush well with soap after using until the brush returns to its original color. After washing, you must thoroughly remove excess moisture to prevent the brush from molding. Return the brush to its original shape and store it in a well-ventilated area to dry.

Woodblock brushes are available for purchase at specialist brush stores and art supply stores that carry woodblock printing supplies.